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By Vittorio Hernandez
Manila, Metro Manila, Philippines
Two more charges of plunder and graft were filed on Thursday against former Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her husband. Two other Arroyo officials allegedly involved in the botched $329-million national broadband deal also were charged.
Partylist Representatives Teddy Casino, Liza Maza and Maria Carolina Pagaduan-Araullo filed the two cases at the Office of the Ombudsman, now headed by retired Associate Supreme Court Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales.
The three complainants claimed that Arroyo, now a congresswoman representing a district in the province of Pampanga, got kickbacks totaling $35 billion (PHP 1.4 billion) from the Chinese telecom firm NBN-ZTE. They added that the former First Gentleman, lawyer Jose Miguel Arroyo, conspired with the then-president in accepting bribe money from NBN-ZTE.
The complaints named former Commission on Elections Chairman Benjamin Abalos, who brokered the deal and allegedly also got kickbacks, and former Transportation Secretary Leandro Mendoza, who signed the NBN-ZTE contract on behalf of the president despite the deal being allegedly grossly disadvantageous to the Philippine government.
Edwin Lacierda, spokesman of President Benigno Aquino III, said the Arroyos could expect due process from Carpio-Morales, who is perceived to be partial to the Aquino administration.
When Carpio-Morales was nominated to become ombudsman to replace Arroyo-appointee Merceditas Gutierrez, who resigned ahead of an impeachment proceeding, the former president opposed Carpio-Morales' nomination. When she was still associate justice, Carpio-Morales was known for issuing dissenting decisions that favored Arroyo on cases before the Supreme Court.
Because of the growing number of plunder and graft cases filed against the former president, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima placed Arroyo - who recently underwent her third surgery for a pinched nerve - on the country's immigration watchlist.
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