MANILA, Philippines—Rebuffed by the Commission on Elections (Comelec), Justice Secretary Leila de Lima is furious.
Another lawyer went as far as to suggest that four election commissioners should be impeached for voting to reject De Lima’s bid to grant immunity to an election supervisor so she could testify against former Comelec Chair Benjamin Abalos Sr.
De Lima said she was “extremely disappointed” by the decision of the Comelec not to drop charges of electoral sabotage against the former election chief of South Cotabato for allegedly rigging the results of the 2007 senatorial elections.
The Comelec en banc voted 4-1 on Wednesday not to drop the charges against Radam.
“I’m extremely disappointed with Comelec that they did not allow the discharge of former provincial elections supervisor Lilian Radam. They knew all along that the reason we charged former Comelec chair Benjamin Abalos Sr. with electoral sabotage is precisely because of the proffered testimonies of Radam and [her North Cotabato counterpart] Yogie Martirizar,” De Lima told reporters in a press conference.
Gloria Arroyo appointees
Radam and Martirizar’s lawyer, Nena Santos, also slammed the four Comelec commissioners, all appointees of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who voted to reject Radam’s bid to become a state witness.
“The GMA (Arroyo’s initials) appointees are very obvious. They would like Abalos to post bail. It’s very funny because the Comelec en banc earlier indicted Abalos but they now want him to post bail by controlling the presentation the prosecution witnesses,” Santos said in a statement sent to the Inquirer.
Both De Lima and Santos said they were sure that Abalos would be granted bail by the Pasay City Regional Trial Court, which is hearing the case, because of the absence of Radam’s testimony.
Radam and Martirizar were the original accused in the electoral sabotage case. They were at large for months until they surfaced recently, seeking to turn state witness and accusing Abalos of ordering them to tamper with results of the 2007 elections in their areas.
Santos said the four Comelec commissioners—Rene Sarmiento, Lucenito Tagle, Elias Yusoph and Armando Velasco—committed “an impeachable act” through betrayal of public trust by preventing Radam, who had already been admitted to the government’s Witness Protection Program (WPP), to testify.
“We will file a motion for reconsideration for the purposes of filing an impeachment case later on grounds of betrayal of public trust in issuing a resolution which is contrary to Republic Act No. 6981 or the WPP law,” Santos said.
The lawyer said obstructing the presentation of a WPP-covered witness was a violation of the law.
The four commissioners could also be impeached for culpable violation of the law by allegedly violating Radam’s right against self-incrimination, she said.
Comelec chair Sixto Brillantes Jr., who dissented from the majority opinion, said in an interview the other day he agreed that Radam and Martirizar’s admission to the WPP required their discharge from the case.
However, Brillantes said, the majority faulted the DOJ for not first seeking Comelec approval for Radam and Martirizar’s admission to the WPP and that because of this, Comelec was not bound by Section 12.