MANILA, Philippines - Former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has asked the Pasay City Regional Trial Court (RTC) to grant her petition for bail, saying the prosecution failed to prove she conspired to commit electoral sabotage during the May 2007 election.
In a memorandum submitted to RTC Branch 112 Judge Jesus Mupas, Arroyo’s lawyer Benjamin Santos said the Commission on Elections (Comelec) “has not proven the alleged overt act” against his client during the series of bail petition hearings.
“It (Comelec) has not presented any tampered or altered certificate of canvass (COC) which are supposed to be the source documents from which supposed tampered electoral results were transposed or transferred to the alleged provincial certificate of canvass,” Santos said.
He said Comelec did not present any tampered COC, which was supposed to be submitted to the national board of canvassers. Santos said the law provides that a person who is not a member of the board of election inspectors (BEI) or board of canvassers (BOC) may not be charged with electoral sabotage as a conspirator.
Charges were filed against Arroyo, former Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. and former election officer Lintang Bedol for allegedly conspiring to cheat in the 2007 senatorial election in Maguindanao.
Santos said the testimony of former Maguindanao provincial administrator Norie Unas that he overheard Arroyo giving instruction to Ampatuan to ensure a 12-0 victory for the administration’s Team Unity cannot be admitted as evidence of conspiracy.
“It’s an unbelievable story. That the alleged conversation between the former president and Ampatuan was made in Malacañang, where all candidates and supporters of Arroyo were present to announce their support to the party,” he said.
Santos said Unas executed an affidavit linking the former president in exchange for the grant of immunity under the witness protection program.
In a related development, the Comelec welcomed Mupas’ ruling to discharge former North Cotabato poll supervisor Yogie Martirizar as co-accused of former Comelec chief Benjamin Abalos.
“No problem, that’s okay with us. It is up to the Department of Justice and we actually did not oppose it. It’s the DOJ’s initiative,” said Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes.
The DOJ sought to discharge Martirizar from the electoral sabotage case filed against her and Abalos over alleged fraud during the 2007 elections in North Cotabato. Martirizar is now a state witness against Abalos and co-accused Capt. Peter Reyes of the Philippine Army.
Brillantes said the Comelec is satisfied with the testimonies of Martirizar against Abalos in previous hearings.
“She is our main witness in this case. With her testimonies, we have a stronger case against chairman Abalos,” he said.
Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago yesterday warned the people that the filing of non-bailable charges against former president Arroyo to ensure her continued detention could be a cause of concern in the international community.
Santiago said that she was “very concerned” with the turn of events since the right to bail is considered as a protected right and preventing a person from exercising this privilege might cause concern in the international community.
A P365.9-million plunder case was recently filed against Arroyo at the Sandiganbayan.
It was filed at a time when a Pasay City court is expected to render its decision on the request for bail in connection with the electoral sabotage case earlier filed against Arroyo.
“It seems there is an intention of not allowing bail for Mrs. Arroyo, even if she is not convicted. For as long as (there is) a non-bailable offense she would continue to remain there. The cases come one after the other, that might be a violation of the right to bail that might cause concern in the international community,” Santiago said.
“The right to bail is a very strong right in the view of international lawyers, particularly of human rights organizations so I am very concerned,” she added.
She downplayed the possibility that the former president would be able to launch a coup d’etat or an armed revolution against the present administration.
“So there can be no justification for giving her this kind of treatment,” said Santiago.
She explained that even Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi did not receive such treatment from the military junta.
Santiago said Suu Kyi was not sent to prison and only placed under house arrest for several years.
Former President Joseph Estrada was allowed to stay in his rest house in Tanay, Rizal while being tried for plunder.
“We have presidents who show that it is better to err on the side of mercy and compassion,” Santiago added. – With Sheila Crisostomo, Evelyn Macairan