Abalos to deal with 2 more poll cheating complaints
Perseus Echeminada (The Philippine Star) - October 10, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - After being cleared of 11 counts of electoral sabotage in the 2007 election in South Cotabato, former Commission on Elections (Comelec) chairman Benjamin Abalos Sr. will have to deal with two more complaints, this time involving alleged cheating in North Cotabato.

Felda Domingo, spokesperson for Pasay Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 112, said it would be the turn of the defense panel to present their evidence.

The complaints stated that votes were manipulated to favor the senatorial candidates of Team Unity, the administration ticket of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

The prosecution panel finished the presentation of its witnesses, among them Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III, who testified on Aug. 8. The senator claimed he lost some 45,000 votes in favor of TU senatorial candidate Miguel Zubiri.

Former North Cotabato election officer Yogie Martirizar, who had turned state witness, implicated Abalos in the case.

Brillantes dismayed

Meanwhile, Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. expressed dismay over the ruling of Pasay RTC Branch 117 Judge Eugenio de la Cruz on Wednesday dismissing the electoral sabotage complaints against Abalos.

“This is really very saddening for us because we really worked hard to build up that case. This is really unfortunate,” he said.

The Comelec could not appeal the decision since it involves a criminal case.

Abalos was accused of masterminding and working with former South Cotabato provincial election supervisor Lilian Suan-Radam to ensure a 12-0 result in favor of TU candidates.

However, the court ruled that the prosecution failed to prove Abalos’ guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

Brillantes said he is confident the ruling would not affect the remaining electoral sabotage complaints against Abalos.

He added that they have different sets of evidence for the cases.

Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes said the court decision “bodes ill” for the other electoral sabotage cases.

“How long before GMA too is cleared of the charges against her? She’s already out on bail because of apparently weak case government filed against her,” he said.

Reyes added that no one is being held accountable in all the cases and reports of fraud in  the 2007 election, exposing the Aquino’s administration’s “daang matuwid” or straight path policy as a sham.

He said there is “no determination on the part of this government to really go after past offenders.”

Electoral sabotage vs GMA

The prosecution will present more witnesses against Arroyo over alleged cheating in the 2007 elections in Maguindanao also to favor the senatorial candidates of the administration party.

Arroyo was charged along with former Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. and former Comelec provincial officer Lintang Bedol.

Comelec prosecutor Charlie Yap said at least 55 witnesses would be presented at the resumption of the hearing at the sala of Pasay RTC Branch 112 Judge Jesus Mupas on Nov. 16. – With Sheila Crisostomo


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