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Abalos cleared in last of poll cases

MANILA, Philippines–A Pasay City court has cleared former Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chair Benjamin Abalos of two counts of electoral sabotage in relation to the alleged rigging of the election results in North Cotabato during the 2007 presidential elections.

Pasay City Regional Trial Court Branch 112 Judge Jesus Mupas on Monday acquitted Abalos in the electoral sabotage case “on grounds of reasonable doubt.”

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Mupas, in his nine-page decision, said there was sufficient evidence presented to show the results of the elections in North Cotabato in May 2007 “were deliberately altered” but the prosecution failed to prove Abalos’ participation in it.

The judge said former North Cotabato provincial election supervisor Yogie Martirizar, Abalos’ “coaccused-turned-state witness,” admitted the rigging of the results but noted that such admission could not be taken against the former chair of the poll body.

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“A vivid examination of the testimonies of the numerous witnesses presented by the prosecution failed to establish any participation, direct or otherwise, of the accused Abalos in the manipulation of the election results. Though it may seem that the participants thereto acted upon the alleged ‘instruction’ of Abalos, no other proof was introduced to establish this important fact,” the decision read.

Mupas said the prosecution also failed to prove the existence of a conspiracy between Martirizar and Abalos since “there was no agreement reached between the two” when the election supervisor claimed that Abalos had instructed her to ensure a 12-0 win for the administration-backed Team Unity senatorial candidates.

The Comelec said it was surprised by the decision acquitting Abalos of manipulating the 2007 elections in favor of the candidates of the Arroyo administration.

“The decision was not something we expected because we believe we presented enough evidence to prove the cases that we set out to prove,” Comelec spokesman James Jimenez told reporters on Monday.

It was the last batch of electoral sabotage cases filed against Abalos by the Comelec under now retired Chair Sixto Brillantes Jr.

Jimenez said the election body would study the ruling before it decides on its next move.

“The commission is going to study the text of the decision and determine what further actions can be taken,” Jimenez said, assuring the public the Comelec would continue “ferreting out the truth” about allegations of cheating in past elections.

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Brillantes, who was present during the promulgation, expressed sadness over the decision, which was released on the day of his retirement. Despite the suspicious coincidence, Brillantes said the poll body would comply with the judicial process.

Abalos’ family applauded the court decision as the former Comelec chair repeatedly thanked Mupas.

“Ever since, I was very confident that I will be acquitted. When you have done nothing wrong, you have to fear nobody,” Abalos told members of the media after the promulgation.

He said he was very thankful to Mupas for deciding in his favor even as they had differences during the course of the hearings.

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TAGS: 2007 midterm elections, 2007 senatorial elections, acquittal, Arroyo administration, Benjamin Abalos, Commission on Elections, courts, Crime, election cheating, election fraud, election sabotage, Elections, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, James Jimenez, Jesus Mupas, Justice, law, litigation, News, Pasay City Regional Trial Court, Sixto Brillantes Jr., trials, Vote-Rigging
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