Poll fraud case vs Arroyo, Abalos strong—Palace
It’s solid as a rock.
Malacañang on Saturday said the government’s electoral sabotage case against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo et al. was not crumbling, even after one of her coaccused was also granted temporary freedom by the court.
“It was only a petition for bail, it was not a judgment on the merits,” said Abigail Valte, deputy presidential spokesperson, over state radio dzRB.
Valte, however, said it was the Commission on Elections (Comelec) that was in a better position to discuss “how strong their case is.”
Less than one month after Arroyo posted P1-million bail for her temporary liberty, former Comelec Chairman Benjamin Abalos was allowed to post a similar amount in bail on Friday. In both instances, the Pasay City Regional Trial Court hearing the case said the evidence against them was weak.
Pasay Judge Jesus Mupas also considered Abalos’ “advanced age” of 76 and poor health.
The Comelec had filed electoral sabotage charges against Arroyo, Abalos, former Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr. and former Maguindanao provincial election supervisor Lintang Bedol last year for allegedly conspiring to rig the 2007 senatorial elections in North Cotabato and South Cotabato in favor of Arroyo’s candidates.
Electoral sabotage is a capital offense and thus is nonbailable unless the evidence is weak.
Premature to conclude gov’t losing
Communication Secretary Ricky Carandang also said it was premature to conclude that the government was slowly losing its case against Arroyo, now a Pampanga representative, and the others.
“I think it is premature to say that we’re losing cases simply because bail was granted. If you compare it to a basketball game, we’re still in the first quarter,” he said in a text message.
The only way to dispel observations the government had a weak case was “by winning the case,” he added.
Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr., for his part, was quick to point out that Mupas had ruled on the prosecution’s evidence in Abalos’ petition for bail, not on its evidence in the case.
He said the prosecution’s witnesses, once they took the stand, would bolster the case against the accused.
Valte said she was not as surprised as Justice Secretary Leila de Lima was that Abalos had been granted bail. De Lima had bewailed the granting of bail to Abalos by Mupas the day after the government prosecutors filed their comment on Abalos’ petition.
“[It’s] not on the same footing, in the sense that Secretary De Lima has more knowledge of the case. Remember that this came from the joint probe of the Department of Justice and the Comelec,” said Valte.
Bail made Senate inquiry relevant
Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, meanwhile, said the Pasay court’s grant of bail to Abalos had just made the Senate’s investigation of the alleged fraud that attended the 2004 and 2007 elections relevant again.
The Senate committee on electoral reforms, of which Pimentel is chair, was investigating the allegations of cheating in the 2004 and 2007 elections last year.
Pimentel’s own bid for senator in 2007 was thwarted by the alleged cheating and he only assumed his seat last year.
He said that any new evidence that might crop up at the inquiry would be a bonus and would strengthen the Comelec’s electoral sabotage case against Arroyo, Abalos, Ampatuan, Bedol and others.
“Applications for bail are being granted left and right. This might follow the case of Mega Pacific where there was a crime committed but there were no criminals,” Pimentel told the Inquirer.
He was referring to the case involving Mega Pacific Corp. and some Comelec officials several years ago where a multimillion-peso contract to buy overpriced counting machines was voided by the Supreme Court. An investigation by the Ombudsman indicated a crime had been committed but no one was ever held liable for it.
“We’ll get to know what happened, how come applications for bail are being granted left and right,” said Pimentel.
He said that out of courtesy to the judiciary, the Senate probe would focus on how the prosecution had handled the electoral sabotage case against Arroyo and Abalos. TJ Burgonio and Norman Bordadora