MANILA, Philippines – A Pasay City court has cleared former Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Benjamin Abalos Sr of electoral sabotage in South Cotabato.
In his 48-page decision on Wednesday, October 8, Judge Eugenio dela Cruz of Pasay City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 117 acquitted Abalos "for failure by the prosecution to prove his guilt beyound reasonable doubt."
Dela Cruz dismissed all 11 counts of electoral sabotage in South Cotabato against Abalos.
Abalos and lawyer Lilian Radam, head of the Provincial Board of Canvassers (PBOC) of South Cotabato, were accused of manipulating votes in the province to ensure a "12-0" sweep of the Team Unity senatorial candidates there during the 2007 national elections.
Team Unity is the administration ticket of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who is facing a separate electoral sabotage case related to the 2007 polls in Maguindanao.
The prosecution, led by the Comelec, presented 17 witnesses to support its claim that Abalos instructed Radam to produce the "12-0" sweep.
The votes of 10 Team Unity senatorial candidates were supposedly increased while the votes of one candidate (Luis "Chavit" Singson) were decreased in the South Cotabato provincial certificates of canvass, statements of votes, and summary statements of votes.
However, the court said that the testimonies did not advance the case versus Abalos, and might even have undermined the prosecution's case.
"Nowhere of these testimonies point that Abalos plotted or connived with Radam in the commission of electoral sabotage," the decision said.
The court said that conspiracy must be proven beyond reasonable doubt, and the prosecution "failed to present any other evidence with which to show the conspiracy, plot, or connivance between Abalos and Radam."
There was no proof, said the court, to establish that Abalos gave the instruction and Radam carried it out. Radam has also categorically denied any participation in the commission of the crime, claiming that "other persons eventually committed the overt acts of electoral sabotage."
"There was no principal by inducement because there was no principal by direct participation," the court added.
However, Abalos' court woes are not yet over. On Friday, October 10, Judge Jesus Mupas of Pasay City RTC Branch 112 will continue to hear the two counts of electoral sabotage in North Cotabato filed against Abalos. – Rappler.com
Michael Bueza is a researcher and data curator under Rappler's Research Team. He works on data about elections, governance, and the budget. He also follows the Philippine pro wrestling scene and the WWE. Michael is also part of the Laffler Talk podcast trio.