MANILA, Philippines--Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has as a way out of the Sandiganbayan subpoena requiring her to testify in the hearing of the botched national broadband network deal with China’s ZTE Corporation, her allies said Thursday.
Without preempting Arroyo’s counsel, Minority leader and Albay Representative Edcel Lagman said the former President can choose to invoke the right against self-incrimination in the hearing.
“She has the option whether to appear or nor, or whether to invoke the right against self incrimination. She has a lawyer and we should not preempt her counsel,” Lagman said.
Raul Gonzalez, presidential
legal adviser and Justice Secretary during Arroyo’s administration, said the former President has the option to ask the anti-graft body to quash the subpoena, especially if there are other material witnesses available to testify for the case.
“If the prosecution can have other witnesses who can deliver the same kind of information that it expects to elicit from her, then I don’t think they should bother her anymore because it seems to me this kind of thing they’re trying to ask of her is to some extent tainted with political color,” Gonzalez said in a phone interview.
Gonzalez, who ran and lost for Iloilo mayor in the May elections, also cautioned that Arroyo’s appearance before the Sandiganbayan might be a precedent for her to be called in as witness to investigations involving the same case.
“The testimony from the former President might complicate the possibility of her being brought before the Truth Commission,” he added.
At this point, however, Gonzalez said Arroyo cannot yet invoke the right against self-incrimination because she has not yet been asked by the court.
Arroyo on Tuesday received the subpoena from the anti-graft court, but her spokesperson Elena Bautista-Horn, said they would refer the matter to a legal counsel.
Arroyo is being asked to appear in the hearing to testify on the extent of authority of former Social Security Systems chairman Romulo Neri in approving the deal.
In the subpoena issued by lawyer Ma. Teresa Pabulayan, executive
clerk of court III, Arroyo is “commanded to appear before the Sandiganbayan Fifth division” on October 13 and 28 and November 11 at 8:30 a.m.
Arroyo herself has been accused of pushing for the$329-million deal, but charges against her were dropped because of her immunity from suits then.
Lira Dalangin-Fernandez, Philippine Daily Inquirer