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Ombudsman affirms graft case over NBN fiasco, but won't elevate charge to plunder
The online news portal of TV5

MANILA, Philippines - Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales has refused to elevate to plunder the graft charges filed against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo over the $329-million national broadband network contract with China's ZTE Corp.

A 19-page resolution signed by Morales affirmed the recommendation of Assistant Special Prosecutors Louella Mae Oco Pesquera, Jacinto M. dela Cruz Jr. and Marlon N. Ramos to file graft charges against the accused but at the same time dismissed a motion by party-list lawmakers to upgrade the charges to plunder.

Accused with Arroyo were her husband, Jose Miguel, former Commission on Elections chairman Benjamin Abalos Sr., and former Transportation secretary Leandro Mendoza.

The recommendation was endorsed by Acting Prosecution Bureau IV director Rabendranath Uy and deputy special prosecutor Cornelio M. Somido. Special Prosecutor Wendell E. Barreras-Sulit inhibited from the decision.

"Contrary to the claim of the complainants, the sworn statement of Dante Madriaga cannot by itself establish all the elements of the crime of plunder alleged to have been committed by former President Arroyo in conspiracy with her husband Jose Miguel Arroyo, along with Mr. Abalos and Mr. Mendoza. Such a charge cannot rest solely on a verbal allegation but must be substantiated by further proof of direct participation," Morales' resolution, submitted Wednesday to the Sandiganbayan Fourth Division, said.

Morales also dismissed Mendoza and Arroyo's claim that the scrapping of the contract made the charges baseless.

"The rescission of the contract on October 2, 2007 after its perfection and prior to the filing of the Information before the Sandiganbayan was made in bad faith and cannot be used by the accused to their advantage. The act of rescinding the contract that was evidently disadvantageous was [made]…precisely to extricate themselves from criminal accountability for a fatal flaw they knew from the inception of the transaction," she said.