‘Bigger’ chance for GMA bail

The court could allow former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to post bail especially after a key witness disappeared, an Arroyo lawyer says

GOODBYE VETERANS? Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo could post bail if the court doesn't find that the evidence against her is strong. File photo by Paterno Esmaquel II

MANILA, Philippines – Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo could be on her way out of hospital arrest if the prosecution fails to present crucial evidence in her electoral sabotage case, especially after a key witness disappeared.

Lawyer Ferdinand Topacio, who speaks on legal matters concerning Mrs Arroyo, said there is a “bigger” chance that the Pasay Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 112 would grant her bail after witness Russam Mabang went missing last week.

Mabang was supposed to corroborate the testimony of the star witness, former Maguindanao election supervisor Norie Unas. When Mabang disappeared, the Commission on Elections (Comelec), which filed the case, opted not to present Unas “to make sure of his security.”

This prompted presiding judge Jesus Mupas to close the bail hearing for the prosecution – something the Comelec has appealed so Unas could testify and strengthen the case.

Topacio, however, downplayed both witnesses’ credibility. “Even with the testimony of these two people, the case is already weak. Without the testimony of these people, it becomes much weaker,” he told Rappler in a phone interview Tuesday, June 5.

Court unconvinced?

Even the court spokesperson, Felda Domingo, sees bail for the former president.

“There is a possibility that the motion for bail will be granted because of all the witnesses the prosecution presented, we could not see what we were looking for,” Domingo said.

Earlier, Mupas ruled that the Comelec should make a formal offer of evidence Monday, June 4. Mupas, however, granted the Comelec’s petition to file the formal offer of evidence Thursday, June 7.

The term “non-bailable offense,” which is often used to describe Arroyo’s case, is a misnomer. The Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure guarantees the right to post bail, even for capital offenses like electoral sabotage, unless the prosecution proves that “evidence of guilt is strong.” (Read: Burden on the prosecution to deny GMA bail.)

‘Polluted source’

Topacio called Unas, among others, a “polluted” witness because he himself is accused of election fraud. He also questioned Unas’ testimony.

In his affidavit, Unas said Arroyo instructed Ampatuan after a dinner: “Dapat 12-0 sa Maguindanao, kahit pa ayusin o palitan ninyo ang resulta.” (It should be 12-0 in Maguindanao in favor of the administration, even if you have to manipulate the results.)

Ampatuan allegedly pledged to Mrs Arroyo that “Maguindano was the extension of Pampanga” and that “Maguindanao will deliver the votes,” Unas said. (Read: Ampatuan aide tags GMA, Mike Arroyo in poll fraud.)

Arroyo’s party indeed won 12-0 in Maguindanao. 

Topacio, however, said “mere words cannot alter the votes.” “Even if the former president had said, ‘I want a 12-0 vote,’ that doesn’t constitute electoral sabotage.”

Electoral sabotage involves the large-scale tampering of votes, among other things. – Rappler.com