Comelec won’t let up on Arroyo
There will be no let-up in the Aquino administration’s determination to bring former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to justice in the face of some minor victories that Arroyo and her co-accused recently won in the courts and the Ombudsman’s Office.
Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. on Thursday said the poll body was confident that Arroyo would remain behind bars and not be allowed to post bail by the Pasay court hearing an electoral sabotage case against her for allegedly rigging the results of the 2007 senatorial race in Maguindanao.
Brillantes said he was not bothered by former Comelec Chairman Benjamin Abalos Sr. being allowed to post bail by another Pasay court in still another electoral sabotage case involving the election results from South Cotabato.
“They are two different cases. Abalos was allowed to post bail since we were not able to present [former South Cotabato provincial election supervisor] Lilia Radam. Here, we have [former Maguindanao provincial administrator] Norie Unas with us and he is fully ready to testify,” he told reporters.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima on Thursday said the government could still file another case for alleged irregularities in the 2004 elections against Arroyo and her husband, Jose Miguel, even after Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales dropped the bribery and corruption complaint against the couple in connection with the 2004 elections.
She said the government could use the findings of the Senate committee that conducted its inquiry into the alleged cheating in the 2004 polls in pursuing more criminal cases against the Arroyos.
“Double jeopardy does not apply in this case,” De Lima said, noting that Morales ordered the dismissal of the complaint for insufficiency of evidence.
“It does not preclude the filing of another case if and when there is sufficiency of evidence,” she said.
The Arroyos, retired elections commissioner Virgilio Garcillano, former Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines Director General Alfonso Cusi, former Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera, Philippine Ports Authority manager Efren Ballozos and former Shariah Circuit Court Judge Nagamura Moner were charged with distributing envelopes filled with cash and providing transportation, including a helicopter, in Mindanao during the 2004 election campaign.
In dismissing the complaint, Morales said the complainants’ allegations could not stand in court.
In Malacañang, presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda on Thursday said the administration’s cases against Arroyo were not crumbling, even with the dismissal of the graft and bribery charges by the Ombudsman.
“I don’t think [they are] crumbling. Comelec has the mandate to make sure it successfully prosecutes the case, whoever the accused is,” Lacierda said.
The dismissal of the case by Morales clearly “shows that we are not using the Ombudsman as a tool for political harassment. Far from it,” Lacierda told reporters.
Brillantes said he remains confident that the Comelec can prove its case against Arroyo in the electoral sabotage charges involving the elections in Maguindanao in 2007.
Although allowed to post bail in the South Cotabato case, Abalos is also a co-accused in the Maguindanao case and remains in jail. Abalos, Arroyo and the other co-accused have all petitioned for bail which Pasay City Judge Jesus Mupas is still hearing.
Brillantes said he was hoping the judge would allow them to present Unas which the joint Comelec-Department of Justice prosecution panel was not able to do at the last hearing because of the disappearance of one of the witnesses.
“We cannot afford not to present Unas because he is our main witness. We hope the court realizes this in the interest of justice,” the chair said.
Unas is considered to be the government’s “star witness” in the Maguindanao case as he claimed to have heard Arroyo ordering former Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. to make sure the administration ticket would sweep the senatorial race. With Marlon Ramos and Christine Avendaño
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