MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE 2) - Pasay Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 112 Judge Jesus Mupas has granted the application for bail of former Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Benjamin Abalos for 2 counts of electoral sabotage.
In a 4-page order, Judge Mupas ordered Abalos to pay a total of P1 million bail for two counts of electoral sabotage, or P500,000 bail for each count for his temporary liberty in connection with charges of alleged cheating during the 2007 senatorial elections in North Cotabato where Team Unity of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo clobbered the opposition.
The grant of bail will pave the way for the temporary release from jail of Abalos, who has been detained for eight months and four days at the Southern Police District.
As of posting, the order of the judge was already with Court Sheriff Rodolfo Buenviaje, who was on his way to the Southern Police District to serve the order to Abalos and his custodians.
After the order is served, the camp of Abalos can pay the bail at the office of the Clerk of Court, after which an Order of Release will be issued by the Court, which will be served again to Abalos before he can finally be temporarily released.
Last Dec. 7, 2011, the Comelec and the Department of Justice filed an electoral sabotage case against Abalos. Six days later, a warrant for his arrest was issued for which he voluntarily surrendered.
Case not strong
Sought for comment, Abalos' lawyer Brigido Dulay said the granting of bail is just the first step in the process to establish the innocence of the former Comelec chief.
He said that he was not surprised by the judge's decision since the evidence used in the electoral sabotage case against Abalos is weak.
"As far as the lawyers of Chairman Abalos are concerned, they've always believed the charges against Chairman Abalos [are] not that strong," he told ANC.
The law firm of Atty. Abraham Espejo also thanked Judge Mupas "for not giving in to pressure and instead, relied solely on the merits of the case and on the overwhelming evidence that we have presented."
"The grant of Chairman Abalos’ freedom is not a day too soon. He had been punished and left to rot in jail for more than eight (8) months on the basis of false charges that were supported by flimsy evidence. We pity the Chairman. It is cruel to jail an old man for something that he did not do," Espejo said.
Dulay said he hopes that Abalos' side will be heard so they could convince the judge that the case against him will be dismissed. With a report from ANC