Former Philippine president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and her husband have pleaded not guilty to corruption charges related to an overpriced deal with a Chinese telecommunications company in a second criminal case against her.
Arroyo, who is being held at a government-run hospital where she is undergoing treatment for a spinal ailment, was escorted from hospital to court on Wednesday by heavily armed police.
Arroyo was arrested last year on a separate charge of electoral fraud and subsequently indicted in connection with a $330m government contract with Chinese telecommunications giant ZTE Corp.
If convicted, the couple could face up to 10 years in prison.
A congressional probe found the 2007 contract overpriced and ridden with problems, including allegations that Arroyo's husband, Jose Miguel “Mike'' Arroyo, accepted bribes to push through the contract with his wife's approval.
Under public pressure, Arroyo cancelled the deal the same year. She left office in 2010 and faced a wide-ranging prosecution as part of a promise by her popular successor, President Benigno Aquino III, to uproot corruption.
The Arroyos accuse Aquino of pursuing a political vendetta.
Arroyo's lawyer, Laurence Arroyo, said his client was also diagnosed with shingles and went to the court against her doctor's advice.
“She wanted to face squarely already the charges against her and get the trial going,'' he said.
A former elections chief, Benjamin Abalos, also pleaded not guilty on Wednesday.
At the 2007 congressional hearing investigating the anomalous contract, Romulo Neri, a former economic planning secretary, testified that Abalos had offered him a bribe to approve the ZTE contract.
Jose de Venecia III, a losing bidder with connections to the Arroyos' inner circle, testified that the ex-president's husband was promised a $70 million commission, although ZTE has denied paying any kickbacks.
Arroyo then prevented top officials, including Neri, from continuing to testify in the probe and the issue was never properly investigated.
After Aquino took power, the Philippine ombudsman investigated and filed charges at the anti-graft court, which issued the arrest warrants.
The ZTE case has also tested the Philippines' relations with China, which Arroyo aggressively pursued. Aquino appears more lukewarm to Beijing amid a resurgence in territorial tensions over disputed islands in the South China Sea.
|< Prev||Next >|
Other articles in Asia-Pacific
Indonesian chief justice arrested for bribery 03 October 2013
US and S Korea sign nuclear deterrence pact 02 October 2013
Australian PM under fire over asylum policies 02 October 2013
Sectarian bloodshed grips Myanmar 02 October 2013
South Korea stages huge military parade 01 October 2013
Myanmar rioters attack Muslims and burn homes 01 October 2013
Myanmar warns against sectarian opportunists 01 October 2013
Australian PM skirts refugee issue in Jakarta 30 September 2013
Australia PM in Jakarta for talks on refugees 30 September 2013
Scores missing as boats sink in China typhoon 30 September 2013
|Timothy V. Gatto|