Sandiganbayan on Abalos graft case: Not guilty

Sandiganbayan on Abalos graft case: Not guilty

Sandiganbayan clears former Commission on Elections (COMELEC) Chair Benjamin Abalos from his graft charge on Wednesday, May 11.

Sandiganbayan on Abalos graft case: Not guilty

Ex-Comelec Chair Benjamin Abalos is now a free man, as Sandiganbayan admits to having received insufficient proof for brokerage of PH and ZTE deal.

(Photo credit: gmanetwork)

For failure to prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt, Abalos was acquitted from his graft charge by the Sandiganbayan Fourth Division in relation with the $329-million National Broadband Network (NBN) - Zhing Xing Telecommunications Equipment Inc. (ZTE) Corporation deal.

The graft court said that though the prosecution is successful in sufficiently establishing the accusation that Abalos brokered the collaboration between Amsterdam Holdings Inc. (AHI) and Zhing Xing Telecommunications Equipment Inc. (ZTE), there has been no proof that he earned a fee for brokering the signed contract between ZTE and the Philippine Government.

"Accused Benjamin Abalos is acquitted of charge against him for failure of the prosecution to establish his guilt beyond reasonable doubt," the Sandiganbayan decision stated.

Abalos was accused of taking advantage of his position as chair of COMELEC when he allegedly brokered for China's Zhing Xing Telecommunications Equipment Inc. (ZTE) to ensure a $329-million contract for the government’s NBN project between September 2006 and April 2007 during the term of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

The prosecutors claimed that Alabalos received a commission for securing the contract which is extremely prohibited as public officials are barred from having any pecuniary interest in any project of the government.

COMELEC Fourth Division said that what is only proven by the prosecution is the fact that Abalos attended meetings with officials of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) and ZTE according to the testimonies of Jose de Venecia III and witness Rodolfo “Jun” Lozada.

“All in all, the evidence only proved that accused was brokering the collaboration between AHI and ZTE, where ZTE would supply equipment to AHI while AHI would contract with the Philippine government for the operation of the NBN,” the resolution read.

“It was not able to establish that he brokered the signed contract between ZTE and the Philippine Government and that he did so for a fee.”

The failure of the prosecution to sufficiently establish its allegation that the accused brokered for ZTE for a fee in the concluded NBN-ZTE contract has rendered moot the legal issue on whether the alleged act constitutes the offense defined under RA No. 3019 (h),” the ruling of the court stated.

His other co-accused in said case were previous President Arroyo, Jose Miguel Arroyo, the former’s husband, and Ex-Secretary of DOTC, Leandro Mendoza.

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