• Court upholds bail for former poll chief

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    THE Court of Appeals affirmed a Pasay City Regional Trial Court (RTC) decision granting the petition for bail filed by former Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairperson Benjamin Abalos Sr. in connection with the two charges of electoral sabotage.

    This development deals a new setback to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and former Comelec Chairperson Sixto Brillantes over the filing of charges for electoral sabotage against Abalos and former president and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Arroyo.

    In a 19-page decision penned by Associate Justice Victoria Isabel Paredes and concurred in by Associate Justices Stephen Cruz and Elihu Ybañez, the appellate court’s Special 9th Division held that Judge Jesus Mupas of Pasay RTC Branch 112 was right when it ordered that Abalos post bail of P1 million, representing P500,000 for each count.

    The charges against Abalos stemmed from alleged votes rigging during the 2007 polls in Maguindanao and North Cotabato.

    Besides the electoral sabotage charges, the former Comelec chair is also facing 11 counts of the same charge arising from the mid-term polls in South Cotabato in 2007 before the Pasay RTC Branch 117.

    Judge Eugenio dela Cruz already allowed Abalos’ release after posting a bail of P2.2 million in June 2012.

    In granting his bail petition, Mupas took into consideration the advanced age of Abalos and his present health condition.

    Abalos’ release came a few weeks after the same court allowed former president Arroyo to post bail because of alleged weak evidence against her in the poll sabotage case filed against her.

    In the case, Arroyo was accused of masterminding the alleged fraudulent elections in 2007 with then Comelec Chairman Abalos, who was exonerated.

    After Mupas allowed Abalos to post bail, the petitioner People of the Philippines through government lawyers sought redress with the appellate court court.

    However, the appellate court held the “prosecution failed to establish that [Abalos’] guilt was strong, suffices for the grant of bail.”

    The appellate court pointed out that the RTC did not abuse its discretion when it granted Abalos’ petition for bail.

    “The burden of proof is on the petitioner to show that the RTC issued its August 17, 2012 Order with grave abuse of discretion. This, petitioner failed to do,” the appellate court said in its May 6, 2015 ruling.

    “In this case, the prosecution was given ample opportunity to demonstrate that the evidence of guilt of private respondent was strong,” it added.

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