The charges were filed with the Sandiganbayan, a special anti-graft tribunal. The Office of the Ombudsman, which filed the case, found no probable cause to justify an indictment for the more serious offense of plunder. Unlike plunder, violation of the anti-graft law is a bailable offense.
During Senate hearings in 2008, ZTE consultant Dante Madriaga, testified that the deal was originally priced at $130 million, but that the cost was increased to accommodate kickbacks. Former Economic Planning Secretary Romulo Neri testified that Benjamin Abalos, the former Chairman of the Commission on Elections, offered him a bribe to approve the contract. Jose de Venecia III, son of then House Speaker Jose de Venecia II and cofounder of Amsterdam Holdings Inc., which lost in the bidding for the NBN contract, testified that Mike Arroyo intervened to help ZTE Corp. win the deal. De Venicia said the ex-president’s husband was promised a $70 million commission.
Arroyo's husband and former elections chief Benjamin Abalos have denied the accusations. Former President Arroyo herself also has previously denied wrongdoing in the latest case. Under public pressure in 2008, she canceled the deal.
A similar case had been filed against Arroyo before the Office of the Ombudsman while she was still President, but this was dropped in 2009 on the ground that she was immune from suit. The alleged kickbacks also formed the basis for two impeachment charges filed against Arroyo while she was President, but both charges were dismissed in the House of Representatives.
The current charges in the Sandiganbayan allege violations of Republic Act 3019 section 3 (g) and (i) and Republic Act 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.
Section 3 (g) makes unlawful the “entering, on behalf of the government, into any contract or transaction manifestly and grossly disadvantageous to the same, whether or not the public officer profited or will profit thereby.”
Section 3 (i) deems a practice corrupt when the official is “directly or indirectly becoming interested, for personal gain, or having a material interest in any transaction or act requiring the approval of a board, panel or group of which he is a member, and which exercises discretion in such approval, even if he votes against the same or does not participate in the action of the board, committee, panel or group.” The same provision states that “interest for personal gain shall be presumed against those public officers responsible for the approval of manifestly unlawful, inequitable, or irregular transaction or acts by the board, panel or group to which they belong.”
Former President Arroyo is presently under arrest in a separate case alleging fraud during the 2007 senatorial elections in parts of the southern island of Mindanao. Her advocates argue that the administration of her successor, President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino, is engaged in an attempt to destroy her reputation so as to distract attention from his administration's own failures.