Witness vs Arroyo credible, says Comelec

Comelec asks the court that the statement of its 'very credible' witness, Norie Unas, should be reconsidered

MANILA, Philippines – In presenting its opposition to the order allowing former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to post bail in an election sabotage case filed against her, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) asserted that its star witness is “very credible.”

In a motion for reconsideration before Pasay Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 112 on Thursday, July 26, the poll body addressed the concerns of Presiding Judge Jesus Mupas about the credibility of Norie Unas, the star witness in Arroyo’s electoral sabotage case.

Mupas’ ruling in granting bail to Arroyo cited the lack of evidence to corroborate Unas’ testimony, as well as his credibility that “is seen by the court to be tainted with doubt.”

Comelec claimed that the defense counsel “tried to attack the credibility of Unas during the cross-examination” in two instances. First, in bringing up his supposed involvement in the Maguindanao Massacre, and second, in emphasizing that he was seeking immunity from prosecution.

A former right-hand man of former Maguindanao Gov Andal Ampatuan Sr, Unas alleged that Mrs Arroyo instructed Ampatuan to rig the 2007 senatorial elections. He, however, admitted that he did not personally witness cheating in 2007, and that he testified on the condition that he would be exempted from any criminal charges against him.

“It must be stressed that in some instances, even the testimony of state witnesses, who are undoubtedly driven by their desire to be exculpated from the charges they are facing, may be taken as credible,” the Comelec’s petition said.

The poll body cited a court decision in the case People vs. Sunga, et al. in 2003, which stressed that the testimony of an accused-turned-state witness may still be used in court “if it is given unhesitantly and in a straightforward manner, and is full of details.”

Comelec added that “there was never a single instance where Unas was caught lying under oath” during the cross-examination.

Comelec also said that it disagrees with the Court’s findings that the prosecution failed to establish enough evidence to prove conspiracy between Arroyo and her co-accused, Ampatuan and former Maguindanao election supervisor Lintang Bedol.

Comelec claimed that the facts established by the prosecution “stood unimpeached,” since their evidence was not rebutted by the defense.

Esmeralda Ladra, head of the Comelec law department, told Rappler that they asked the Pasay City court to hear their petition on Tuesday, July 31. “But it’s up to the court if they will hear the petition, or if they will just comment on it,” she said.

The ruling allowed Mrs Arroyo to walk free after 8 months under hospital arrest.

President Benigno Aquino III, for his part, vented frustration over Mupas’ decision. He said Mupas, an infamous judge, is hard to please. — Rappler.com

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