(Updated 12:06 p.m.) Another plunder complaint was filed on Thursday against former President and incumbent Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, this time for the botched national broadband network (NBN) deal with China’s ZTE Corp. that the Philippine government entered into during her administration.
Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Teodoro Casiño, Bayan chairperson Carol Araullo, and former Gabriela women’s party-list Rep. Lisa Maza filed the case before the Office of the Ombudsman at past 11 a.m.
This is the sixth plunder complaint against Mrs. Arroyo since she left the presidency in June 2010. It is also the second time the former president was slapped with plunder raps under new Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales.
(L-R) Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Teddy Casino, ex-Gabriela women's party-list Rep Lisa Maza, and Bayan chairperson Carol Araullo filed the sixth plunder complaint against ex-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Thursday. Mark AdrianLawyer Raul Lambino, Mrs. Arroyo's legal spokesperson, dismissed the plunder complaint as another act of "persecution" towards the former President, insisting that his client never benefited from the deal.
"The NBN-ZTE contract was cancelled and there was no damage incurred by government in that aborted transaction," Lambino said in a text message.
He added that the filing of the complaint was "another [act of] political grandstanding" by certain groups "to advance their respective agenda" using the media.
Casiño and fellow Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Neri Colmenares also filed a graft case against Mrs. Arroyo at the Department of Justice for the NBN-ZTE deal in July last year — immediately after the former President stepped down from the country’s top post and lost her immunity from suit.
Last month, the Department of Justice placed Mrs. Arroyo under the Bureau of Immigration's watch list on the basis that the former Philippine leader has three pending plunder complaints before the Justice Department.
The watch list order against Mrs. Arroyo is effective for 60 days.
At present, Mrs. Arroyo is recovering from a third surgery she underwent because of a pinched nerve in her spine.
National broadband controversy
The Philippine National Broadband Network controversy (also known as the NBN/ZTE deal) involved allegations of corruption in the awarding of a US$329 million construction contract to Chinese telecommunications firm ZTE for the proposed government-managed National Broadband Network (NBN). [See full timeline here.]
The contract with ZTE was signed on April 20, 2007 in Hainan, China. After accusations of irregularities surfaced, Mrs. Arroyo cancelled the National Broadband Network (NBN) project in October 2007.
Among the high-profile personalities linked to the supposed anomaly were then-Commission on Elections chairman Benjamin Abalos Sr., who resigned at the height of the controversy; then-National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) chief Romulo Neri; and Mrs. Arroyo’s husband, former First Gentleman Jose Miguel “Mike" Arroyo.
On July 14, 2008, the Supreme Court dismissed all three petitions questioning the constitutionality of the national broadband deal, saying the petitions became moot when Mrs. Arroyo cancelled the project.
On Monday, President Benigno Aquino III said he will not allow the revival of the controversial multi-million-dollar deal under his administration. He said his government will instead tap existing Internet connections in the country for a national broadband network project. — RSJ/LBG, GMA News