Using translator, Andal Sr. pleads not guilty to poll rap
With no one to translate the criminal information into a native dialect, the Pasay Regional Trial Court (RTC) turned to Andal Ampatuan Sr.’s teenage son to read the electoral-sabotage charge to his ailing father during his arraignment on Monday.
Ampatuan’s lawyer Sigfrid Fortun told Judge Jesus Mupas of RTC Branch 112 that aside from having difficulty hearing, Ampatuan did not know English. The court allowed 17-year-old Micko Ampatuan, a college freshman, to read the two-page charge sheet when prosecutors from the Commission on Election (Comelec) posed no objection.
The court likewise arraigned former Comelec Chairman Benjamin Abalos and former election supervisor Yogie Martirizar on two counts of electoral sabotage in connection with the 2007 senatorial elections in North Cotabato.
The younger Ampatuan, who accompanied his sickly father to court, referred from time to time to Judge Mupas, who explained terms such as “conspiracy” and “tampering” so he could translate them accurately to the Maguindanaoan dialect.
After the reading was finished, Mupas asked Ampatuan how he was pleading to the charge. Ampatuan shook his head, mumbled something, and the judge said the accused entered a not guilty plea.
“Do you understand the charge against you?” Mupas continued, asking the younger Ampatuan to translate it to their dialect. The accused nodded in agreement.
Fortun told the Philippine Daily Inquirer later that Ampatuan Sr. wanted to be present at the bail hearing set by the court for next Tuesday for his coaccused, former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and former Maguindanao election supervisor Lintang Bedol. Fortun said he was to file Ampatuan’s petition Monday afternoon.
Ampatuan and Bedol, allegedly on orders of Arroyo, tampered with the results of the 2007 senatorial elections in Maguindanao to ensure the victory of her candidates.
Abalos continued to question the court’s jurisdiction over his electoral-sabotage case, again refusing to enter a plea during his arraignment. His lawyer Brigido Dulay explained that Abalos wanted to be consistent in his stand that it was the Sandiganbayan that had jurisdiction over the case. With reports from AFP and Tetch Torres, INQUIRER.net
Originally posted: 9:40 am | Monday, March 26th, 2012
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