Mandaluyong City Mayor Benhur Abalos on Tuesday lambasted a supposed plan of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to drop charges against two former election officials who had tagged his father, former Comelec Chairman Benjamin Abalos, in election irregularities in 2007.
In a hastily called press briefing, the younger Abalos reacted strongly to what he said were “A1 reports” that the Comelec was set to approve a resolution dropping electoral fraud charges against former poll supervisors Susan Radam and Yogi Martirizar, who have applied to become state witnesses.
The two are coaccused with the elder Abalos, former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. and ex-election official Lintang Bedol in a case alleging they rigged election results in North and South Cotabato.
The mayor questioned the propriety of approving such a resolution, saying only the “least guilty” in a criminal case could apply as state witness.
He stressed that it was in fact his father, during his incumbency as Comelec chairman, who ordered the filing of an electoral sabotage case against the two.
“Those two (former) Comelec officials were the ones who directly participated in the commission of the crime. Why should they be allowed to be state witnesses?” he lamented.
Abalos said Radam and Martirizar were both ordered arrested in 2007 by a Pasay City regional trial court over their purported role in election anomalies in Mindanao.
“They were fugitives from the law for five years. When they surfaced six months ago, it was only then that they started pointing to my father,” he said.
In their testimony before the joint investigating panel of the Comelec and the Department of Justice, Radam and Martirizar admitted tampering with the election results in Mindanao allegedly on orders of the elder Abalos. They also claimed receiving financial help from “military intelligence agents,” whom they described as their “handlers,” while they were in hiding.
Accompanied by his father’s lawyers, Abalos said some “well-meaning friends” had warned them on Sunday night that the Comelec might pass the resolution withdrawing the criminal information against Radam and Martirizar during its en banc session in Baguio City on Thursday.
Holding back tears, the mayor called on the seven election commissioners to “be guided by the law and your conscience” and spurn the alleged plot to prevent his 80-year-old father from posting bail.
“If this happens, this will be the height of injustice, cruelty and abuse of power. This is too much,” an emotional Abalos told reporters.
“This is hard for us. I beg the enlightened Comelec commissioners to use your conscience … My father is already 80 years old and his health is deteriorating. All we want is for him to be allowed to post bail.”
“What is certain is that the case against my father is crumbling right now and they will move heaven and earth just so my father will be persecuted,” he said.
Asked if the tip about the dropping of the charges against Radam and Martirizar came from a source within the election body, Abalos said: “What we have is ‘A1 information’ from our well-meaning friends.”
“I believe that what we got is very credible information. Maybe you can ask the Comelec about this,” he said. “As mayor of Mandaluyong and as a lawyer, I stand by my statement.”
Brigido Dulay, lawyer of the elder Abalos, maintained that Radam and Martirizar should still remain as accused even if they would be utilized as witnesses against the former Comelec chief.
“Being a state witness does not absolve anyone from criminal liability,” Dulay said.
Originally posted: 7:13 pm | Tuesday, April 10th, 2012