BY ELLEN TORDESILLAS
‘It leaves a bad taste in the mouth that an administration that presents itself as intent on reforming the judicial system had to twist the law to cover up its incompetence.’
I just hope that his anger is not directed at Pasay City Regional trial Court Judge Jesus Mupas handling the case but to the Commission on Election and the Department of Justice for filing a weak case.
We have maintained from the very beginning that the electoral sabotage case filed against Arroyo in connection with the 2007 elections was so weak that it appeared as if it was meant to be dismissed.
That was precisely what Mupas said in granting a P1 million bail to Arroyo which enabled her to go home to her Las Vista home. She cannot leave the country as the Sandiganbayan has issued a Hold Departure Order for her in connection with other cases filed against her, one of them a plunder case in connection with the misuse of more than P300 million of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes office.
The Pasay City RTC, which is hearing the case, said on Wednesday that the case against Arroyo was weak, and that she should be released on a P1-million bail.
“The court believes that the prosecution failed to establish with the required quantum of proof that conspiracy exists on the part of accused Arroyo,” Mupas said.
Mupas said the credibility of a former Maguindanao provincial administrator, Norie Unas, the only witness to implicate Arroyo in the case, was “tainted with doubt.”
Unas admitted that the reason he agreed to be a witness in the electoral sabotage case was to be admitted to the Witness Protection Program, which necessitated his being dropped as one of those accused in the 2009 Maguindanao massacre where 58 people were killed, 34 of them journalists.
Unas, as the right hand man of former Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. was said to have been part of the planning of the massacre and cover-up after the tragedy.
The inclusion of Arroyo in the electoral sabotage case anchored on the testimony of Unas that he overhead GMA tell Ampatuan Sr., in a dinner in Malacañang a few days before the 2007 elections to ensure that senatorial candidates of the administration’s Team Unity win in Maguindanao even if they had to cheat.
Unas said Ampatuan Sr. ordered election supervisor Lintang Bedol to cheat to comply with Arroyo’s order. Bedol admitted cheating for the Team Unity’s senatorial candidates particularly Juan Miguel Zubiri.
Bedol, however, didn’t implicate Arroyo because he never talked with her.
Lawyer Harry Roque, who has filed several cases against Arroyo, said: “PGMA’s release is a black eye on Secretary De Lima and Chairman Brillantes. Even I noted how weak the evidence against her was.”
Fortunately, Roque said Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales has come to the rescue anew and has filed a non-bailable plunder case against Arroyo.
“Still, the image of PGMA walking to freedom sent a million words: impunity for the little devil! Thank goodness this will be short-lived. She will be back behind bars for plunder and please: let it be in a regular jail this time!”
Rep. Teddy Casino of Bayan Muna said the same thing: “The granting of bail to former President Arroyo is a big slap on the face of President Aquino who just two days ago in his SONA boasted of his administration’s efforts to hold Arroyo accountable for her crimes.”
Casino took note that the court decision “was made apparently because the government’s complaint of electoral sabotage was rushed owing to its failure to build up any major cases filed earlier by various citizens groups.”
Senator Panfilo Lacson said the judge’s decision was a sign of a weak case.
Taking a snipe at De Lima, who has been criticized for her penchant for publicity, “We cannot build a strong case through press releases and media interviews.”
“Rather, it takes hard work and the gift of skill and well-rounded knowledge of law, not to mention the rules of court and proper legal procedures to accomplish the same,“ he said.
Anyway, the electoral sabotage case has served its purpose. It put Gloria Arroyo in jail while a more solid case was being prepared against her.
But it leaves a bad taste in the mouth that an administration that presents itself as intent on reforming the judicial system had to twist the law to cover up its incompetence.