Pasay court to rule on Abalos bail petition next week

April 18, 2012 10:59 pm 

MANILA, April 18 — Pasay City Regional Trial Court (RTC) handling the electoral sabotage against former Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Benjamin Abalos is expected to render a ruling by next week on its bail petition.

Pasay City RTC Branch 117 Presiding Judge Eugenio dela Cruz said the prosecution has waived its right to present their witnesses in several hearings, including Wednesday’s trial.

Abalos faces 11 counts of electoral sabotage charges in connection with alleged irregularities in the 2007 mid-term elections.

Dela Cruz, in open court, gave the prosecution five days within which to file its formal offer of evidence and another three days for the defense to file its comment after which, the court will render a ruling.

The prosecution again failed to present former South Cotabato election supervisor Lilian Suan-Radam during Wednesday’s hearing, claiming that she was still recuperating from high blood pressure and diabetes.

During the last hearing on the petition last March 28, the court warned the prosecution that in the event they fail to present Radam on the next hearing on April 18, they would be deemed to have waived its right to present evidence insofar as the bail petition is concerned, adding that the rule on bail petitions should be summary in nature.

Abalos’ legal counsel, Brigido Dulay said they were optimistic he would be allowed to post bail, especially after the repeated failure of the prosecution to present witnesses.

“We are confident that Chairman Abalos will be granted bail in this case based on the Constitution and the rulings of the Supreme Court. Without presenting any witnesses, the prosecution failed to show that the evidence against Chairman Abalos is strong,” Dulay said.

“It is therefore only just and proper that Chairman Abalos be granted temporary liberty pending trial on the merits of the case. He is not a flight risk. In fact, he is looking forward to confronting his accusers and proving his innocence in court,” he said.

Electoral sabotage is a non-bailable offense, especially if the evidence is strong but Abalos’ camp said the case against him was weak and based on statements by Radam, who has an axe to grind against him as he was the one who initiated the filing of charges against her in the aftermath of the 2007 polls.

For her part, Radam’s lawyer, Nena Santos defended her client’s non-appearance in Wednesday hearing, saying she still recuperating considering that her blood sugar count has shot up to 460.

At the same time, she said that they mulling the filing of impeachment charges against the four Comelec Commissioners who ruled against removing Radam from the criminal charges.

She added that the ruling violated the provisions of the Witness Protection Program (WPP) since her client is already with the WPP and could not anymore be included in the charges.

In a related development, the Department of Justice (DOJ) through Assistant City Prosecutors Elvira Herrera and Orlando Mariano filed in open court a “motion to discharge as state witness” Abalos co-accused despite the poll body’s en banc resolution disapproving the discharge of Radam and former North Cotabato election supervisor Yogi Martirizar in the electoral sabotage case.

Among those who signed the en banc’s resolution were Commissioner’s Rene Sarmiento, Lucenito Tagle, Elias Yusoph and Armando Velasco. Comelec Chairman Sixto Brilliantes Jr. and Commissioner Christian Robert Lim dissented in the ruling.

Dulay objected to the Justice department’s motion, saying that it was filed without the consent of the Comelec which is acting as the lead prosecutor of the case and that the motion only serves to delay the trial.

Likewise, Dulay said Radam and Martirizar could not be discharged from the case as they appear to be the most guilty of the crime.

Dela Cruz gave Abalos 10 days to file his comment or opposition to the DOJ’s motion.

Earlier, DOJ Secretary Leila De Lima said Radam and Martirizar could be utilized as state witnesses against Abalos and former president and now Pampanga 2nd District Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who is facing the same charges before the sala of Pasay City RTC Branch 112 Judge Jesus Mupas.

Abalos is also facing two counts of the same charges before Mupas’ sala and has been in detention since December of 2011 at the Southern Police District headquarters. (PNA)

RMA/CLTC

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