Bail grant on Abalos surprises officials-A A +A
Friday, August 17, 2012
MANILA -- Justice and election officials on Friday were caught off-guard by the Pasay City Regional Trial Court’s decision to allow ex-poll chairman Benjamin Abalos to post bail on his electoral sabotage case.
Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Sixto Brillantes said the decision of Judge Jesus Mupas is not consistent with his earlier decision to turn Abalos's co-accused, former North Cotabato election officer Yogie Martirizar, into a state witness over her supposedly vital testimony against her former boss.
"What puzzles me is that Martirizar was turned into state witness so she can testify against Abalos. Now, they granted the bail on the basis of weak testimony of Martirizar. Why discharge somebody and turn her into a state witness if you think she has a weak testimony?" asked Brillantes.
Mupas allowed Abalos to post P1-million bail on charges of electoral sabotage, which carries a penalty of life imprisonment.
In a five-page resolution, the court said "the prosecution was not able to establish with clarity the strong evidence of guilt of accused Abalos, thus leaving the court in doubt as to whether or not said accused should be admitted to bail or his provisional liberty."
The court also took into consideration Abalos's age, 77, and present health condition.
Abalos was detained for eight months at the headquarters of the Southern Police District (SPD) in Fort Bonifacio in Taguig City after Mupas issued a warrant for his arrest late last year.
Last July, Mupas cleared Martirizar from the electoral sabotage case concerning the 2007 polls in North Cotabato, paving the way for her to become a state witness against Abalos.
Martirizar had claimed that Abalos threatened and forced her to sign fake election documents on May 23, 2007 to ensure that then senatorial candidates of the administration would win against the opposition in the 2007 midterm polls.
Despite the development, Brillantes expressed confidence of securing a guilty verdict against one of his predecessors.
"Remember that this is just the bail hearing. We are still going to the merits of the case. If we think we have a weak case, we would not have filed it," said the poll chief.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima found the resolution "surprising and shocking," saying it came a day after the prosecutors filed their comment on the bail petition.
"Do you mean he was able to read and study the memorandum overnight and then come up with a resolution overnight? Unless that resolution has been already prepared," she told reporters.
For his part, Abalos's lawyer Abraham Espejo said it is time for the supposed harassment cases to end.
"We pity the chairman. It is cruel to jail an old man for something that he did not do," he said in a statement.
Last June, Abalos was able to post bail worth P2.2 million before the Pasay Regional Trial Court branch 117 for another poll sabotage case in relation to alleged election cheating in South Cotabato also in 2007. (Virgil Lopez/HDT/Sunnex)