Arroyo lawyers ask court to speed up trial of election sabotage case
MANILA, Philippines—This time, it’s the lawyers of former President Gloria Macagapal-Arroyo who are asking for a speedy trial.
At the last pre-trial proceedings in the election sabotage case filed against Arroyo at the Pasay Regional Trial Court Branch 112, Lawyer Benjamin Santos said the Arroyo camp wanted a full-day trial every week once the trial gets underway on January 31.
The lawyer invoked his client’s right to a speedy trial after the Commission on Elections’ lawyers asked Presiding Judge Jesus Mupas of Branch 112 to suspend the trial for two months from April to May to allow them and their witnesses to help in the preparations for the mid-term elections next May.
The Comelec, which managed to obtain an arrest warrant on the same day it filed the indictment against the former President on Nov. 18 last year, appeared to want to slow down the case.
“Our witnesses are election officers who are involved in the election preparations. You know how is it like during elections when (Comelec personnel) are awake 24/7,” Comelec lawyer Maria Juana Valeza told reporters.
She added that the Comelec did not want “undivided attention when it comes to elections.”
At the close of the pre-trial hearing on Thursday, prosecution lawyers submitted their final list of 56 witnesses who, according to Valeza, would corroborate the statements of the main witness, former Maguindanao provincial administrator Norie Unas, implicating Arroyo in the case.
Unas testified during the previous bail hearings that he overheard Arroyo tell co-accused former Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan Sr., to ensure the victory of the administration’s senatorial candidates.
The court however questioned the credibility of Unas and thus, allowed Arroyo to post bail in July.
Other accused in the electoral sabotage case are provincial election supervisor Lintang Bedol and former Commission on Elections Chairman Benjamin Abalos.
Sought for comment, Santos said it was ironic that the Comelec filed the charge against Arroyo in haste, but from November last year up to now, has kept the case dragging on.
“They are not prepared to pursue this case as speedily as possible,” he said.
Santos said he and his colleagues will be adjusting their schedules and even ask the court to hold a full-day trial per week.
“Hopefully, they (prosecution) can present five witnesses, too, in one day. Maybe we are asking for the moon. But it’s something that we like to do,” Santos said.
Judge Mupas said the deferment of the trial during the election period needed further discussion.
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