Romulo Neri, the Planning secretary during the Arroyo administration, will testify on Wednesday in the graft trial of former Commission on Elections (Comelec) chairman Benjamin Abalos in connection with a scandal-ridden multimillion telecommunications deal between the Philippine government and a Chinese firm.
Abalos, who also served in the Arroyo Cabinet, is accused of unlawful intervention in the negotiations for the Philippine government’s national broadband network (NBN) project by allegedly brokering for Zhong Xing Telecommunications Equipment (ZTE) Inc.
The project, worth $329 million, was scrapped in October 2007 by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo after reports broke out that it was ridden with anomalies.
This will be the second attempt of the prosecution to start its presentation of evidence after the Sandiganbayan Fourth Division, which is hearing the case, granted Abalos’ request for a deferment last October 6.
Neri, the former director general of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), had once told a Senate investigation that Abalos offered him a P200-million bribe to secure NEDA’s endorsement of the ZTE bid.
Abalos has denied the accusation although he admitted knowing some ZTE officials because he said they were golf buddies.
Arroyo and her husband, Jose Miguel Arroyo, were also implicated in the controversy, although both denied the accusations. The issue, however, will be investigated by the Truth Commission formed by President Benigno Aquino III.
While Neri’s testimony is expected to consume all the time available for Wednesday’s hearing, prosecutors have also subpoenaed University of the Philippines-College of Law professor Harry Roque and newspaper columnist Jarius Bondoc to testify.
The hearing is scheduled at 8:30 a.m.
GMA News TV