MANILA, Philippines – The evidence linking former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to alleged rigging of the 2007 senatorial elections in Maguindanao is not weak, according to Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Sixto Brillantes.
Brillantes insisted on Saturday that the testimony of former Maguindanao provincial administrator Norie Unas should have been enough to establish a link between Arroyo and former Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. in the alleged sabotage of the 2007 senatorial elections in the province.
Brillantes described Unas as Ampatuan’s “well-educated assistant,” who was always present in the governor’s meetings.
“Hindi humaharap si Ampatuan kung hindi niya kasama ‘yung kanyang right hand man, who is admittedly Norie Unas,” Brillantes told dzMM.
Unas testified before the court that he heard Arroyo give instructions to Ampatuan Sr. to ensure a 12-0 result in the polls favoring administration candidates.
But Brillantes said what was crucial in Unas’ testimony was Arroyo’s alleged instruction to achieve the 12-0 result even if it meant tampering with the results.
“‘Yun ang damaging kasi inuutusan mo nang palitan ang resulta, which they did. Because of that instruction, Ampatuan instructed Norie Unas to implement all of this,” he said.
“‘Yung testimony ni Norie Unas was very strong. Gulat na gulat ako sa sinasabing weak ang evidence,” Brillantes said.
Motion for reconsideration
The Comelec has filed a motion for reconsideration of the court’s decision.
“Sa tingin namin malakas [ang ebidensya]. But we are only in the bail hearing. Magkakaroon pa tayo ng hearing on the merits of the case. We are entitled to present additional evidence. We have lined up more than 20 witnesses,” he said.
Arroyo was allowed to post bail for charges of electoral sabotage after Pasay Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 112 Judge Jesus Mupas found that Unas’ testimony was “weak.”
The 65-year-old Arroyo left the Veterans' Memorial Medical Center (VMMC) in Quezon City last Wednesday, after being under hospital arrest for over 7 months.
Atty. Ferdinand Topacio, a lawyer of the Arroyo family, said the court's grant of bail to the former President was only a minor victory, adding that “anything can still happen.”
“Matagal pa ang laban at hindi pa pwede magdiwang,” he told dzMM on Saturday on the same program.
Topacio also said the Arroyo camp is now used to the negative publicity that the President has been receiving ever since she was detained at the VMMC.
“Tanggap naman natin ‘yan. Simula ng nawala sa pwesto, talagang demonized ang dating pangulo. But justice is not a popularity contest. Hindi naman ito eleksyon, kung hindi ano ang mapapatunayan ng ebidensya sa hukuman. Public opinion is part of a vibrant democracy,” he said.
“Tanggap naman na she is not a very popular person ngunit hindi naman iyan ang batayan. We are not running for election, we are seeking vindication from the court,” he added.
Arroyo visited local officials in Pampanga on Saturday. One of her allies, Candaba Mayor Jerry Pelayo, said the congresswoman met with officials to talk about projects for her constituents.