Pasay court sets Abalos arraignment on Feb. 13

January 25, 2012 11:09 pm 

MANILA, Jan. 25 — The Pasay City court on Wednesday set the arraignment of former Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Benjamin Abalos on charges of electoral sabotage.

Pasay City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 112 Presiding Judge Jesus Mupas set Abalos’ arraignment on February 13 after dismissing, for lack of merit, the former Comelec chief’s motion asking for his inhibition in the trial.

In a three-page order, Mupas said Abalos failed to substantiate such claim, and that the supposed extortion attempt is not one of the grounds for a judge to be disqualified in a case under Section 1, Rules 137 of the Rules of Court.

“This court cannot be easily dissuaded by just a mere speculation on the part of the litigant at the expense of the independence and integrity it ought to maintain. Absent any justifiable reason to doubt the independence of this court, its inhibition cannot be sustained,” the Pasay judge explained.

“After a careful scrutiny of the grounds cited therein, this court finds said motion to be wanting of credence,” Mupas said.

Abalos sought the judge’s inhibition after he exposed an alleged attempt by the magistrate to extort P100 million and P30 million from him on two occasions in exchange for favorable rulings in the case.

Mupas even chided Abalos for not reporting the supposed extortion attempt to authorities that could have resulted to the apprehension of the two lawyers the Comelec chief claimed were acting as his emissaries.

“Being a lawyer and abreast of the recent laws and jurisprudence, the accused should have sought the assistance of the proper authorities in entrapping and charging the persons behind it,” Mupas said.

In his testimony, Abalos identified the two lawyers as May Mercado and Jojo Desiderio, both of whom he had met on two occasions.

And with this alleged extortion try, Abalos said he could no longer expect fair treatment from the presiding judge. He and his counsel, Brigido Dulay, were subsequently cited for contempt.

Informed of the court’s decision, Dulay said they have been expecting that the judge would not inhibit.

“We are just wondering why he is so interested in hanging on to the case when serious doubts have been raised about his fairness and objectivity. Is there something so special with this case which he knows that we don’t know?” Dulay questioned.

He said they will be filing a motion for reconsideration.

Abalos was charged with electoral sabotage by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) for allegedly rigging election results in North and South Cotabato in the 2007 elections to favor the candidates aligned with then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

The 77-year-old Abalos surrendered and is now being detained at the Southern Police District in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City.

The former Comelec chair and three other accused has been charged with electoral sabotage in connection with the alleged cheating in the 2007 election in South Cotabato which he vehemently denied.

At present, the leadership of SPD under Chief Supt. Jose Arne delos Santos has allowed Abalos to jog for one hour inside the compound so he could enjoy the early sun and have some exercise.

The Abalos camp is also awaiting the decision of the judge handling the case to the motion to inhibit they have filed recently.

Abalos is facing Electoral sabotage, a non-bailable offense, especially if the evidence is strong but Abalos said the case against him is weak since it rested mainly on the testimonies of two former election supervisors, Lilian Suan-Radam and Yogie Martirizar, who are also facing the electoral complaints filed by Abalos when he was still the Comelec chief.

Aside from Abalos, the Comelec also filed the same charges against former election supervisors Yogie Martirizar and Lilian Suan-Radam and Capt. Peter Reyes of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP)

The same charges was also filed against former president and now Pampanga 2nd District Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Maguindanao governor and close political ally, Andal Ampatuan Sr., and former election supervisor Lintang Bedol.

Like Arroyo, Abalos has also filed a petition for bail saying the prosecution’s case against him rested on the affidavit of Martirizar and Radam. The two, he added, are “tainted” witnesses and have an ax to grind against him as he ordered the filing of a case against them for election irregularities. (PNA)

DCT/CLTC

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