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Thursday, May 07, 2009

Fw: GMA, FG, Abalos, Neri can be grilled on ZTE-NBN scandal during trial of Lozada perjury case: Drilon


Perhaps unaware of the legal implications ahead, former Presidential Chief of Staff Mike Defensor may have reopened the can of worms that is the controversial ZTE-National Broadband Network (NBN) bribery scandal when he filed the perjury charge against whistleblower Rodolfo "Jun" Lozada.


Former Senate President and Justice Secretary Frank Drilon today predicted that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, First Gentleman Mike Arroyo, former election chief Benjamin Abalos Jr. and economic planning chief Romulo Neri can be subjected to questioning in the Manila trial court on the ZTE-NBN scandal and Malacanang cannot even legally invoke executive privilege to stop it as it did during the Senate investigation on the case.


"Mike Defensor might not realize this, but the simple perjury case he filed against Lozada will now provide the legal avenue that was denied of the Senate because of the executive privilege invoked by Malacanang," Drilon, one of the country's top lawyers, said.

"Under the rules of court, Manila Judge Jorge Emmanel M. Loredo can subpoena President Arroyo, Mike Arroyo, Abalos and Neri and Lozada's defense lawyers will now be given the opportunity to question them on the allegations of bribery in the ZTE-NBN scandal, something that the Senate was not able to do," Drilon said.


Drilon said he agreed with the observations of Judge Loredo, who is hearing the perjury case, that the Manila court can summon the President and her officials should Lozada's lawyers cite them as "hostile witnesses."


"In that eventuality, President Arroyo and her officials cannot invoke executive privilege because of established legal jurisprudence," Drilon said, citing the ruling in the case of former US President Richard Nixon which held that "the need for evidence in a criminal trial outweighs executive privilege."


"I hope this scenario happens so that we can finally require these Malacanang officials to face the Filipino people and answer those persistent questions about graft and corruption in the ZTE-NBN bribery scandal," said Drilon, who has been closely monitoring Lozada's case. "Perhaps, this is the break the Filipino nation has been waiting for."


On Thursday, Lozada Jr. pleaded not guilty of perjury on the charges filed against him by Defensor before the sala of Judge Lorredo of the Manila Metropolitan Trial Court Branch 26. Among those who attended the hearing was Drilon.


Last year, Lozada testified in Senate investigations on the huge kickbacks in the NBN deal with China's ZTE Corp. Several administration officials, including Mike Arroyo, Abalos, then head of the Commission on Elections (Comelec); and Neri, head of the National Economic Development Board (NEDA) were implicated in the scandal but refused to answers senators' questions under the cover of executive privilege invoked by President Arroyo.


Drilon said he found it ironic that Judge Lorredo himself would warn Defensor that the simple perjury case he filed against Lozada had a "very explosive potential" with the possible inclusion of President Arroyo and her husband in the trial.


In a five-page order issued by Lorredo last Monday (May 4) , the Manila judge assured Defensor that if President Arroyo and her husband were asked to stand as witnesses in the trial, he will not hesitate to issue subpoena to the First Couple.


The judge added that if the Philippine National Police (PNP) would refuse to serve the warrants of arrest on the First Couple, he can deputize other public officers, possibly Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim, former PNP chief-now-Senator-Panfilo Lacson and other opposition senators to serve the warrants of arrest.


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