MANILA, Philippines - Former speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. testified yesterday in the graft case against Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo before the Sandiganbayan, saying that he played golf with the former president in Shenzhen, China in 2007 with officials of the telecommunications firm ZTE Corp.
Government prosecutors presented De Venecia as a witness to prove alleged influence peddling in the $329-million national broadband network (NBN) deal.
De Venecia told reporters after the hearing: “I confirm that I was invited to play golf by President Arroyo with her and (former) first gentlemen Mike Arroyo and (former elections) chairman (Benjamin) Abalos in Shenzhen, China.”
De Venecia said Arroyo was in favor of a build-operate-transfer arrangement. He didn’t know why Arroyo apparently changed her mind, he added.
Arroyo’s lead defense lawyer Lawrence Arroyo attacked De Venecia’s testimony as that of the father of a businessman who stood to profit from the deal.
“You claim to be the father of the BOT Law, but you also confirm that you are the father of Joey de Venecia who is pursuing another broadband project,” he asked.
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De Venecia answered “Yes.”
“I do not know,” De Venecia said in response to a question on how much his son would have earned if his BOT proposal had pushed through.
Retired Manila fiscal Jose Flaminiano, another defense lawyer, said De Venecia’s testimony was insignificant as the charge of pecuniary interest on Arroyo’s part in the NBN deal was crucial since he confirmed the business interest of his son over the same project.
“His testimony just proves that he is supporting his son because he was particularly interested in the same project but which was illegal for him to have done so since he was at that time still speaker of the House,” he said.
The Sandiganbayan Fourth Division chaired by Associate Justice Gregory Ong scheduled the next hearings on Sept. 9 and 10