MANILA, Philippines – Former Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Benjamin Abalos Sr was acquitted on Monday, February 2, in the second and last poll sabotage case filed against him.
In a 9-page decision, Judge Jesus Mupas of Pasay City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 112 cleared Abalos of two counts of electoral sabotage in North Cotabato during the 2007 senatorial elections.
Abalos was accused of instructing lawyer Yogie Martirazar, then the head of the Provincial Board of Canvassers (PBOC) of North Cotabato, to manipulate the votes in the province to ensure the victory of Team Unity, the Arroyo administration’s senatorial ticket.
Martirazar was among the defendants in the case along with Abalos, but she was later admitted as a state witness.
Judge Mupas said the testimonies of prosecution witnesses “failed to establish any participation, direct or otherwise, of accused Abalos in the manipulation of the election results.”
There was sufficient evidence to prove that the election results in North Cotabato in 2007 were deliberately altered, as admitted by Martirazar, but “such admission cannot be simply taken hook, line, and sinker as against accused Abalos.”
“Though it may seem that the participants thereto acted upon the alleged ‘instruction’ of Abalos, no other proof was introduced to establish this important fact,” added Mupas.
In all the scenarios alleged by the prosecution witnesses, Mupas ruled that “it was not sufficiently established that these subsequent instructions came from Abalos. It was just presumed that the same is from him.”
Therefore, the existence of conspiracy with Abalos, “cannot be established beyond resonable doubt,” said Mupas.
The poll sabotage case, filed by the Comelec in December 2011, involved the tampering of votes of Team Unity bet Juan Miguel Zubiri and opposition candidate Aquilino Pimentel III.
Team Unity is the administration ticket of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who is now facing a separate electoral sabotage case related to the 2007 polls in Maguindanao.
A certain Captain Peter Reyes, allegedly assigned to monitor Martirazar’s actions, was also among the accused, but he has yet to be arrested.
In October 2014, Judge Eugenio dela Cruz of Pasay City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 117 acquitted Abalos of 11 counts of electoral sabotage in South Cotabato “for failure by the prosecution to prove his guilt beyound reasonable doubt.” – Rappler.com