DoJ, Comelec to strengthen electoral sabotage case against Abalos

Posted on August 18, 2012

The joint Department of Justice-Commission on Elections (DoJ-Comelec) investigation team will strengthen its electoral sabotage case against an ex-poll chairman after the latter was granted bail by a regional trial court for weak evidence, a Cabinet official said on Friday.

“We can find significant corroborative witnesses for the main case and strengthen it,” Justice Secretary Leila M. de Lima said, partly in Filipino, in an interview with reporters, reacting to an order allowing former Comelec Chairman Benjamin S. Abalos, Sr. to be bailed out due to the prosecution’s weak evidence.

In an order, Pasay City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 112 Judge Jesus B. Mupas set Mr. Abalos’s bail at P1 million for two counts of electoral sabotage.

The joint DoJ-Comelec fact finding team filed electoral sabotage and fraud charges against Mr. Abalos in connection with the alleged cheating during the 2007 senatorial elections in North Cotabato, where Team Unity of former president and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (2nd district) supposedly won a landslide vote.

The court said the prosecution failed to present strong evidence of guilt against Mr. Abalos, after presenting only former election supervisor Yogie G. Martirizar as a witness.

It, however, also ordered a hold departure order against the Mr. Abalos, effectively barring him from leaving the country.

Despite admitting that the granting of bail was “very surprising, if not shocking,” Ms. De Lima said: “We remain hopeful that in the main trial we can achieve conviction.”

“It told the [joint] panel, we have to and will strengthen the case. It doesn’t mean that [when] bail [is] granted that there’s no hope,” she added.

In June, a separate RTC also allowed Mr. Abalos to post bail to the tune of P2.2 million for a separate electoral fraud charge. -- Antonio Siegfrid O. Alegado