PNoy on Arroyo bail: Court hard to please

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

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President Benigno Aquino III vents his frustration over the release of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, whose imprisonment highlighted his anti-corruption campaign

MANILA, Philippines – He saw her arrest as a fruit of his anti-corruption campaign, and now President Benigno Aquino III is frustrated a Pasay court allowed former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to post bail for her electoral sabotage case.

Aquino claimed the court’s presiding judge, Jesus Mupas, has particularly high standards. He noted Mupas allowed Mrs Arroyo to post bail because no other evidence can corroborate the star witness’ testimony.

GOING HOME. Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo returns to her La Vista residence after a Pasay court grants her bail. Photo from AFP

“Unsupported by other evidence to corroborate such testimony, the same could not be given such weight and probative value that will be sufficient to establish a strong evidence of guilt on the part of accused Arroyo,” Mupas said in his 7-page ruling on Mrs Arroyo’s bail petition.

Unas, previously the right-hand man of former Maguindanao Gov Andal Ampatuan Sr, said he heard Mrs Arroyo instruct Ampatuan to rig the 2007 elections. “Dapat 12-0 sa Maguindanao, kahit pa ayusin o palitan ninyo ang resulta,” Mrs Arroyo allegedly told Ampatuan. (It should be 12-0 in Maguindanao in favor of the administration, even if you have to manipulate the results.)

‘No one else’

Who else could corroborate such testimony, Aquino asked.

Alangan naman nating isipin na magbibigay ng testimonya ‘yung dalawa laban sa sarili nila,” Aquino said, referring to Mrs Arroyo and Ampatuan, who are both accused in the electoral sabotage case. (It looks unlikely that the two will testify against themselves.)

JUDGING ARROYO. Presiding judge Jesus Mupas allows former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to post bail. Photo by Paterno Esmaquel II

He said only Unas, then, is likely to testify.

Paano kaya tayo magkakaroon ng corroborative (testimony)? Medyo ang taas naman yata ng test na parang imposibleng ma-attain dahil wala na ngang ibang nakarinig noong kanilang usapan tungkol doon sa isyu ng electoral fraud,” the President said.

(How can we have corroborative testimony? It looks like the standard is too high and hard to attain, because no one else heard their conversation regarding the issue of electoral fraud.)

Unas’ credibility

What Aquino failed to mention is the Pasay court’s issue with Unas himself. The star witness’ credibility “is seen by the court to be tainted with doubt,” Mupas’ ruling pointed out.

In a press conference, court spokesperson Felda Domingo cited Unas’ admission that he testified “because of the condition that he will be exempted from any criminal charges against him.”

“From that statement, the court doubted his testimony,” Domingo explained.

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

In a hearing on Mrs Arroyo’s bail petition, Unas also admitted he did not actually witness election fraud in 2007.

Critics claim the electoral sabotage case is weak to begin with.

Nevertheless, Aquino remains hopeful about another non-bailable case against Mrs Arroyo – a plunder charge before the Sandiganbayan, for which the anti-graft court held a hearing Thursday, July 26.

The Sandiganbayan, however, has not arrested Mrs Arroyo for this case, with her lawyers having filed a motion to suspend proceedings and the issuance of a warrant of arrest. She is now in Tagaytay to seek alternative treatment. –

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Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior multimedia reporter covering religion for Rappler. He also teaches journalism at the University of Santo Tomas. For story ideas or feedback, email