Arroyo may face life imprisonment, lawmaker says

by Ron Gagalac, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 15 2011 11:44 PM | Updated as of Jul 16 2011 08:43 AM

MANILA, Philippines (1st UPDATE) - Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo may face life imprisonment if former Commission on Elections supervisor Lintang Bedol's statements on alleged cheating in Mindanao in the 2004 presidential election are proven true, a lawmaker said on Friday.

Bedol claimed that Fernando Poe Jr. -- and not Arroyo -- won the 2004 presidential election.  

Bayan Muna partylist Rep. Neri Colmenares said their lawyers are now studying the possibility of filing electoral sabotage charges against Arroyo for allegedly rigging the presidential election 7 years ago.

He said if they are upheld by a court, the charges are not bailable and are punishable by reclusion perpetua.  

Bayan Muna is also also studying the possibility of filing another plunder charge against Arroyo for alleged corruption regarding the P24-billion Northrail project.  

Four plunder charges have been filed against her at the Ombudsman since Arroyo left Malacañang last year.

The first was filed last July 10, 2010 by Bayan Muna, which cited the $329M NBN-ZTE contract anomaly as basis.

The second was filed last April 26, 2011 by former Solicitor General Frank Chavez and Gabriela, which cited alleged misuse of P530 million OWWA funds.

The third was filed last June 1, 2011 by the Kilusang Magbubukod ng Pilipinas, which cited alleged corruption related to the P728-million fertilizer fund.

The latest was filed last July 12 by Bayan Muna regarding alleged allocation and misuse of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office's P150-million intelligence funds.

Charges of technical malversation, malversation, and violation of the anti-graft law have also been filed against Arroyo.  

He said they are looking closely into what Bedol says, because his statements may strengthen the electoral sabotage case that they plan to file against Arroyo.

Colmenares also said there is no conspiracy to pin down the former President, contrary to what her allies are saying in media.

"Ngayong wala na siya (Arroyo) sa poder, natural lang na lalabas ang mga complainants at sabay-sabay ito na magsasamapa ng kaso laban sa kanya," he  said. "There's nothing personal about this, it is part of our efforts to curb impunity so that public officials will learn a lesson from this."

"Tawag dito karma. May mga sisingilin na ngayon sa mga ginawa niya noon," he said.

An ally of Arroyo believes that a conspiracy is behind the allegations against the former President.

"Lumalabas orchestrated ito conspiracy at nagamit itong Senado para sa politcal ambition ng iilan. Ilang taon na palaging nag-iimbestiga.  Palaging panawagan pagkakaisa. Paano pagkakaisahin winawasak mo?" asked Candaba, Pampanga Mayor Jerry Pelayo.

Meanwhile, Movie and Television Review and Classification Board chairperson Grace Poe-Llamanzares, a daughter of Poe, has welcomed revelations on the alleged cheating in the 2004 and 2007 elections.

"Bedol's statement of cheating in 04 just adds proof to the quietly accepted fact that FPJ won the 04 election. He was simply cheated. Hopefully more witneses wil come out and profess the same," she said.
 
Vice-President Jejomar Binay, meanwhile, also hopes that the statements of Bedol may finally shed light on the issue.
 
"Matagal na nating sinasabi yan, na dinaya si FPJ. Sana ngayon maresolba na yan para mabigyan ng hustisya si FPJ at ang mga bumoto sa kanya," he said.
 
House Speaker Sonny Belmonte is reportedly supporting a new congressional probe into the alleged poll fraud.