Have Arroyo arrested again, Comelec asks CA

MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has gone to the Court of Appeals (CA) to end former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's temporary freedom and have her arrested again.

Comelec law department head Esmeralda Ladra confirmed on Friday, December 28, that the poll body, through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), has filed a petition before the CA to reject Arroyo's bail, which was earlier granted by a Pasay City court. The Comelec received its copy of the petition for certiorari, which was prepared by the OSG, last December 13.

In a 48-page petition, a copy of which was obtained by Rappler, the Comelec said Pasay RTC Branch 112's Judge Jesus Mupas committed grave abuse of discretion when he allowed Arroyo to post bail last July for her electoral sabotage case. The Comelec wanted the CA to nullify this order and another that denied Comelec's motion for reconsideration.

The Comelec presented two basic arguments: 

Arroyo 'induced' Ampatuan

In particular, the Comelec said Arroyo committed electoral sabotage as a “principal by inducement.” Under the Revised Penal Code, this term refers to “those who directly force or induce others” to commit a crime.

Arroyo, as the most powerful person in the Philippines then, allegedly “exerted her influence and moral authority” when she supposedly instructed former Maguindanao Gov Datu Andal Ampatuan Sr to rig the 2007 senatorial elections in favor of her senatorial candidates.

In his testimony, Unas said he heard Arroyo instruct Ampatuan to cheat in favor of the administration's Team Unity candidates. “Dapat 12-0 sa Maguindanao, kahit pa ayusin o palitan ninyo ang resulta,” Unas allegedly heard the former President say. (It should be 12-0 in Maguindanao in favor of the administration, even if you have to manipulate the results.)

For the Comelec, Arroyo “did not have to participate in the execution of the crime since her mere inducement to Ampatuan Sr and her moral ascendancy to her co-accused are sufficient 'overt acts' for her indictment as principal by inducement.”

The Comelec said Arroyo "hatched and devised the evil plan of ensuring a '12-0' victory" for the administration's bets.

Arroyo's instructions also show there was a "conspiracy" between her, Ampatuan, and former Maguindanao election supervisor Lintang Bedol, the Comelec said.

Citing a Supreme Court ruling, it added that conspiracy does not require a formal agreement. "It is sufficient that their minds meet understanding so as to bring about an intelligent and deliberate agreement to commit the offense charged."

'Credible' star witness

The Comelec also said its star witness, Unas, is credible. Mupas earlier said Unas's credibility is "tainted with doubt," with the judge discarding the latter's testimony because no other witness can corroborate it. 

STAR WITNESS. Former Maguindanao provincial administrator Norie Unas testifies that former President Arroyo ordered Ampatuan Sr to ensure a 12-0 victory for her senatorial slate in Maguindanao in 2007. Photo by Paterno Esmaquel II

STAR WITNESS. Former Maguindanao provincial administrator Norie Unas testifies that former President Arroyo ordered Ampatuan Sr to ensure a 12-0 victory for her senatorial slate in Maguindanao in 2007.

Photo by Paterno Esmaquel II

The Comelec however cited a "well-settled principle that the absence of corroborating testimony will not affect credibility." What corroboration can the court expect from Unas, it added, when no one else heard the alleged Arroyo-Ampatuan conversation?

"Here, Engineer Unas' testimony is credible. It was not hearsay.... Furthermore, the testimony has been consistent and straightforward. It must always be borne in mind that the quality of evidence must prevail over quantity," the Comelec explained.

When defense lawyers cross-examined Unas, however, he admitted that he did not personally witness cheating in 2007. Defense lawyers said this weakens his testimony.

This bolstered critics' claim that the case is weak in the first place.

Pretrial for Arroyo's electoral sabotage case, which was filed on Nov 18, 2011, will begin in January. One of the most unpopular leaders in Philippine history, she also faces graft and plunder charges before other courts. – Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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