MANILA – Two executives of ZTE Corp., the largest telecommunications equipment company in China, will be among the witnesses of the Ombudsman against Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, now facing graft charges before the Sandiganbayan for her alleged role in the $329-million national broadband network (NBN) irregularity.
ZTE Vice President Yu Yong and Fan Yang, one of the firm’s directors, are expected to testify against the former president, her husband Jose Miguel Arroyo, former elections commissioner Benjamin Abalos, and former Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) secretary Leandro Mendoza during trial.
Both Chinese executives were listed as principal witnesses in the three separate criminal complaints filed by the Office of the Ombudsman, together with other personalities who claimed to have knowledge of how the NBN-ZTE deal was overpriced due to alleged commissions and kickbacks.
The STAR sources said Yu Yong and Fan Yang have already been asked to testify before the Sandiganbayan on the graft cases filed by former Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez against Abalos and former National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Director-General Romulo Neri in May 2010, also in relation to the NBN deal.
The Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP) has sent to the ZTE executives the letters signed by Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and translated into Chinese, requesting their participation in the court hearings since they were the personnel who allegedly held meetings with the respondents on the details of the contract.
Sources said there are several options to pursue, including the possibility of having prosecutors, defense lawyers, and a Sandiganbayan clerk of court fly to China to conduct a deposition, an out-of-court oral testimony of a witness that is reduced to writing.
If such an arrangement cannot be made, government lawyers plan to first secure the sworn statements or affidavits of Yu Yong and Fan Yang and have the anti-graft court summon them through the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT).
Also listed as witnesses against the Arroyos, Abalos, and Mendoza are former House speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. and his son Jose “Joey” de Venecia III, NBN-ZTE deal whistleblower Rodolfo Lozada Jr., Dante Madriaga and representatives of DOTC and the Wack Wack Golf and Country Club.
The first graft case filed by the Ombudsman against Arroyo accuses her of violating Section 3(i) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act for allegedly having interest for personal gain in the contract “despite knowledge of the irregularities and anomalies that attended its approval.”
The second graft case against her and her husband, Abalos, and Mendoza is for alleged violation of Section 3(g) of the same law which penalizes acts of entering into any contract or transaction that is “manifestly and grossly disadvantageous to the government.”
The third case filed against Arroyo accuses her of violating Republic Act 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Government Officials and Employees for playing golf and having lunch with ZTE executives in Shenzhen, China while the NBN deal was still pending final approval.
Unlike in the case of former Ombudsman Simeon Marcelo during the plunder trial of former President Joseph Estrada, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales has no plan of actually participating in Arroyo’s trial.
Assistant Ombudsman Asryman Rafanan, the anti-graft office’s spokesman, said Morales is not keen on joining the prosecutors who will handle the case at the Sandiganbayan.
“The OSP will be handling the prosecution of the cases,” he said, adding that it will be up to the prosecution team to strategize and “explore the possibility or the viability and the means with which to pursue or to secure the listed witnesses,” including the ZTE officials.(Philippine Star)