A Pasay City court Friday issued a warrant for the arrest of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on charges of electoral sabotage.
Judge Jesus Mupas of the Pasay Regional Trial Court Branch 112 issued the warrant after the Commission on Elections (Comelec) filed a case against Mrs. Arroyo, Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan Sr., Lintang Bedol, provincial election supervisor of Maguindanao.
The Comelec alleged that the three conspired to ensure a 12-0 victory for the senatorial candidates of the Arroyo-backed Team Unity in the 2007 election.
Hours earlier, the Comelec special en banc voted 5 to 2 to file the case against Arroyo.
The Comelec concurred with the findings of the joint panel of the Comelec and the Department of Justice (DoJ) that it has a strong case against Arroyo and the four others.
Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes and Commissioners Rene Sarmiento, Augusto Lagman, Elias Yusoph, and Christian Lim voted for the filing of the charge. Commissioners Lucenito Tagle and Armando Velasco did not vote, saying they were not able to read the resolution.
Brillantes denied that the poll body fast-tracked the filing of the case. “We had the resolution since Wednesday and we had the chance to deliberate on it just today,” he said.
Sarmiento said he also convinced the evidence was strong, based on the affidavits submitted to the joint panel.
In his concurring opinion, Brillantes explained that “while I was originally inclined to inhibit myself in the resolution of the case, I now fear that in the higher interest of justice, equity, and as public interest highly demands, I will have to vote and concur with the opinion of my other colleagues considering that the finding of probable cause against respondent, Arroyo, specifically on her failure to submit any refuting evidence to the direct statement under oath of witnesses.”
Submitted for further investigation are the allegations against former Central Mindanao election director Michael Abas, retired poll commissioner Nicodemo Ferrer, former ISAFP Central Mindanao Director Col. Reuben Basiao, Abalos’ former aide, Jaime Paz, and former Maguindanao provincial administrator Norie Unas.
Based on Section 42 of Republic Act 9369, there is electoral sabotage “when the tampering, increase and/or decrease of votes perpetrated or the refusal to credit the correct votes or to deduct tampered votes, is/are committed in the election of a national elective office.”
It is also electoral sabotage if the total votes involved exceed 10,000.
The Poll Automation Law of 2007 provides that an electoral sabotage carries a penalty of life imprisonment.
The case was filed in Pasay since it covers the jurisdiction of the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC), where the Comelec canvassed the results of the elections.
Presidential political adviser Ronaldo Llamas welcomed the Comelec decision to bring charges against Arroyo.
By JEAN FERNANDO and LESLIE ANN AQUINO