THE Sandiganbayan on Wednesday (May 11) acquits former Commission on Elections chair Benjamin Abalos Sr. from graft in connection with the controversial 2007 US $329 million National Broadband Network-ZTE deal.
In acquitting the charismatic former election chief, the anti-graft court said Abalos did not violate Section 3(h) of Repubic Act 3019 (the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act). It also noted that government prosecutors failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt the charges leveled against Abalos.
Section 3(h) of R.A. 3019 states that it is unlawful for any: “Director or indirectly having financing or pecuniary interest in any business, contract or transaction in connection with which he intervenes or takes part in his official capacity, or in which he is prohibited by the Constitution or by any law from having any interest.”
Government prosecutors, in their allegation, said Abalos committed graft when he allegedly used his position as election chief to influence the outcome of the contract of the alleged anomalous NBN-ZTE transaction.
Abalos allegedly offered a PHP200-million “bribe” to former Socio-Economic Planning Secretary Romulo Neri in order to approve the NBN-ZTE deal.
The controversial broadband network construction deal was awarded to ZTE on Apri 20, 2007 in Hainan, China. However, following the emergence of irregularities, then President and now Pampanga (2nd District) Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo cancelled the NBN project in October 2007.
On July 14, 2008, the Supreme Court (SC) dismissed all three petitions questioning the constitutionality of the NBN deal, saying that the petitions became “moot” when the project was cancelled.
Meanwhile, Abalos, in an interview with Beyond Deadlines said he was extremely nervous moments prior to the Sandiganbayan’s handing of its decision acquitting him although he is confident that he did not violate any law.
“I know all the time that i was innocent but nevertheless I was nervous. The whole incident affected my family,” Abalos said.