The Supreme Court has upheld the Sandiganbayan’s acquittal of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in connection with the graft cases filed against her over the alleged $329-million anomalous National Broadband Network deal with the Chinese telecom firm Zhong Xing Telecommunications Equipment International Investment Limited.
In a resolution released recently, the high court’s Third Division ruled that the Office of the Special Prosecutor wrongly assailed the resolutions of the Sandiganbayan issued on August 8, 2016, and November 7, 2016, which granted Mrs. Arroyo’s demurrer to evidence that resulted in the dismissal of the graft cases filed against her for graft.
The high court said the petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Civil Procedure filed by the prosecution to seek the reversal of the Sandiganbayan’s resolutions would violate Mrs. Arroyo’s constitutional right against double jeopardy under Article III, Section 21 of the Constitution.
“A cursory examination of the petition readily reveals that in essence, petitioner excoriates the Sandiganbayan’s evaluation and assessment of the evidence presented by the prosecution. Petitioner bemoans the ‘gross misapprehension of the facts and the evidence on record which led to the grant of the demurrer in favor of GMA,” the high court said.
“However, a writ of certiorari can only correct errors of jurisdiction or those involving the commission of grave abuse of discretion, not those which call for the evaluation of evidence and factual findings.
Accordingly, we cannot condone this specious approach at stretching the allowable limits of questioning a judgment of acquittal.”
According to the tribunal, it is now within its jurisdiction to review factual and evidentiary issues raised by the prosecution.
Arroyo was accused of violating Section 3 (i) of the anti-graft law when she approved the NBN- ZTE project for personal gain despite knowing the irregularities in the project.
The former President was also charged with violation of R.A. 6713 for having lunch and playing golf with ZTE officials while the broadband project proposal was still being assessed by the government.
But the anti-graft court ruled that the prosecution failed to present sufficient evidence to support its claim that the contract was grossly disadvantageous to the government.