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Impeachment raps filed vs Abalos over ZTE controversy

September 27, 2007 3:30pm
(Update 2, 4:23 p.m.) An impeachment complaint against Commission on Elections (Comelec) chairman Benjamin Abalos Sr was formally filed before the House of Representatives Thursday afternoon.

Iloilo Vice-Governor Rolex Suplico filed the impeachment complaint against Abalos for betrayal of public trust, culpable violations of the Constitution, bribery, and graft and corruption.

The complaint is in connection with Abalos's implication in ZTE Corp.'s controversial $329.48 million contract with the government for the implementation of the national broadband network project.

Those who endorsed the impeachment complaint are Representatives Teofisto Guingona III, Teodoro Casiño, and Ma. Isabelle Climaco.

The complaint contains the sworn affidavits of former socio-economic secretary Romulo Neri and Jose "Joey" de Venecia III, the report said.

“This is not about personal relationships, we're talking of the Constitution and laws of the Republic. The Constitution and laws have been violated and therefore, there is course of action... to nail down Chairman Abalos for the violation of the Constitution," Suplico told reporters at the House.

In a separate interview, Suplico told GMANews.TV that the complaint against Abalos is "impeccable" even if it has no other evidence other than what were disclosed during the Senate inquiry on the ZTE deal.

"The evidence we used were based on the testimonies of people who are close to the administration. They were not from the opposition who are expected to be critical of the Arroyo administration. Joey (de Venecia III) is the son of the Speaker who is an ally of President Arroyo, while (Romulo) Neri is a Cabinet official whose immediate boss is the President," he said.

'Numbers game'

In a telephone interview, Abalos told GMANews.TV that he is leaving the resolution of his case to the House saying he believes in the integrity of its members, even as he said that the impeachment is merely a "numbers game."

Abalos said he saw the filing of the impeachment case coming. But he said he wouldn't let himself be "distracted" by his critics.

Meanwhile, Guingona said lawmakers endorsed the impeachment complaint to bring the "cycle of impunity" to an end.

"We have decided to endorse the impeachment complaint of Vice-Governor Rolex Suplico because we believe that this cycle of impunity must be brought to an end. Public officers must be made to account for their actions," Guingona said.

For his part, Casiño said the complaint against Abalos was sufficient both in form and substance, adding that all charges against the poll official are well supported.

"I endorsed the complaint because it was sufficient in form and substance. it was a very well-made complaint. All of the charges against Abalos have a strong basis... The content of the complaint is basically those that were disclosed during the Senate investigation on the ZTE deal, which are enough prima facie evidence against Abalos," Casiño said.

"We don't want this to become a minority effort, and I think this complaint could make congressmen cross party lines," he added.

The complaint against Abalos stems from the Senate hearing Wednesday in which Neri said Abalos offered him P200 million to endorse a Chinese company's bid for a broadband network.

Abalos denied the allegation and said he will not step down, while the contract has been suspended.

The Chinese company, Zhong Xing Telecommunication Equipment Corp., also denied any irregularities.

Abalos will be impeached if at least 80 representatives, or two-thirds of the 240 House members, support the move.

Abalos, a 72-year-old former judge, said the impeachment bid was part of ''a sustained and well-funded campaign to destroy me.''

As a fallout from the scandal involving the $330 million project, the Chinese Commerce Ministry said that it would not affect ties with the Philippines. - GMANews.TV with AP reports
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