Comelec: Arroyo case strong despite missing witness
The missing witness is not the star witness in the electoral sabotage case, the Comelec says

MANILA, Philippines – The electoral sabotage case against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo remains strong despite the disappearance of a witness, Commission on Elections (Comelec) chair Sixto Brillantes said Thursday, May 31.

The witness, Russam Mabang, failed to show up at the bail hearing for Mrs Arroyo’s electoral sabotage case Thursday. He was among the last two witnesses the Comelec was scheduled to present.

In a press conference, Brillantes noted that Mabang is not the star witness in the case that the Comelec filed against the ex-president. He said the principal witness, former Maguindanao election supervisor Nori Unas, is not missing and remains well-protected.

“We want to tell the public that the fight is not yet over. They are saying that since our main witness disappeared, our case against GMA [Arroyo] had weakened. Not true. Our principal witness is still here and he is going to testify if the court will give us the opportunity to present him,” Brillantes said.

HOSPITAL ARREST. Detained former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo may post bail if prosecutors fail to show strong evidence of guilt. Graphics by Analette Abesamis

Last bail hearing

On Thursday, the Comelec was supposed to present not only Mabang but also Unas before the court. When Mabang failed to show up, however, the Comelec also decided not to present Unas “to make sure of his security,” according to Brillantes.

Presiding judge Jesus Mupas then decided to close the bail hearing for the prosecution side, giving it until early next week to make a formal offer of evidence, according to court spokesperson Felda Domingo.

Brillantes said the Comelec will ask Mupas to reconsider and still allow it to present Unas.

The next hearing is set on June 21.

At the end of the bail hearings, Mupas will decide if Arroyo can be granted bail.

Contrary to popular perception, there is no such thing as an absolutely non-bailable offense, with the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure guaranteeing the right to post bail subject to certain conditions. (Read: Burden on the prosecution to deny GMA bail.)

Arroyo is detained at the Veterans Memorial Medical City for her electoral sabotage case. –