MANILA, Philippines – Commission on Elections (Comelec) chair Sixto Brillantes Jr is confident that former President Gloria Arroyo will not be granted bail.
“GMA (Arroyo) will not be released. After [former Maguindanao election supervisor Norie] Unas testifies, she will not be allowed to post bail,” Brillantes told reporters on Wednesday, June 6. “I’m sure,” Brillanted stressed.
It is not clear how Comelec can present Unas since it is already expected to file its formal offer of evidence on Thursday, June 7, before a Pasay court. The court is hearing an electoral sabotage case that the Comelec filed against Mrs Arroyo in connection with the 2007 senatorial elections.
This was the basis for Mrs Arroyo’s arrest late last year. She is detained at the Veterans Medical Memorial Center in Quezon City.
Based on the court’s timetable, it will be the turn of Arroyo’s lawyers to present their evidence starting next week.
Arroyo lawyer Ferdinand Topacio earlier said there’s a “bigger” chance that the Pasay regional trial court Branch 112 will allow the former president to post bail after witness Russam Mabang went missing last week.
But Brillantes said Mabang is not important. The Comelec supposedly only needed him to corroborate the testimonies of 10 witnesses that the Comelec had previously presented.
“Decoy namin yung umatras na witness. Tapos na kami mag-present ng evidence namin kay Arroyo. The last witness we are going to present is Unas—the principal, main, star witness,” Brillantes said.
“Maski mawala na siya (Mabang). Hindi na namin kailangan. Si Unas ang importante. Kapag si Unas ang nawala, wala kaming link kay Arroyo. He (Unas) is the only one who can testify on what happened in Malacañang,” Brillantes added.
Brillantes also said he is the only one who knows where Unas is. Not even President Aquino or Justice Secretary Leila De Lima knows where he is.
The electoral sabotage case against Mrs Arroyo is pending before Pasay regional trial court Branch 112 under Judge Jesus Mupas.
Abalos granted bail
Concerns that Arroyo may be allowed to post bail grew after another Pasay court—Branch 117 under Judge Eugenio dela Cruz—allowed former Comelec chairman Benjamin Abalos to post bail.
But Brillantes said there’s no connection. “We have different witnesses against GMA. Totally different,” Brillantes said.
The electoral sabotage case against Abalos refers to alleged cheating in North and South Cotabato in the 2007 senatorial elections. The case against Arroyo involves alleged cheating in Maguindanao also in 2007, he explained.
Despite the ruling of Branch 117, Brillantes said Abalos cannot be released because he is also implicated in the electoral sabotage case against Arroyo before Branch 112—along with former Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan and former Comelec executive Lintang Bedol.
GMA allies: Up to court
House minority leader Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez, a key ally of former President Arroyo, said “it’s up to the courts.”
“There are two issues. Let the court decide on her bail and let the government doctors representing the administration verify how serious is the health of the former president,” said Suarez.
“Healthwise, hindi maganda katayuan ng [former] pangulo. May mga kaso pa siya. Para sa amin, huwag muna natin pag-usapan kalagayan ng [former] pangulo,” Suarez added.
But Suarez said he believes that the case against Arroyo is weaker compared to the case against Abalos. “It will really depend on the court,” he said.
Suarez said he will visit Arroyo Wednesday night.
Brillantes attended Wednesday the hearing of the House committe on suffrage on electoral reforms, where Smartmatic was made to demonstrate how the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) works.
Echoing their concerns before the 2010 automated elections, many lawmakers grilled Smartmatic’s Cesar Flores about possible automated fraud in the 2013 elections.
In the end, committee chairman Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga said he was “satisfied” with Smartmatic’s presentation.
“The way we look at it, as demonstrated by Smartmatic, it seems the system is good. I am very much satisfied… I am definitely convinced that the system is secure having seen it with my own eyes right now,” Barzaga.
In the 2013 elections, cross and check marks will be allowed in the ballot, according to Barzaga. “Ipinakita ngayon ni Mr. Flores na kahit hindi shading. As long as a voter shades 50% of the oval [in the ballot], his vote will be counted,” said Barzaga. – Rappler.com