By Raïssa Robles
The Arroyo camp is complaining that the Commission on Elections and the Department of Justice “railroaded” and “rushed” the electoral sabotage case against her.
The truth is the opposite of that. The “evidence” of Arroyo’s crime first came to light on July 11 this year and quickly unfolded from there.
It all began when Zaldy Ampatuan – a suspected mass murderer whom Arroyo handpicked to be Governor of the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) – suddenly told ABS-CBN TV that his family helped rig the 2007 polls for Arroyo in their home province of Maguindanao.
He claimed that as a result, Arroyo’s candidate Juan Miguel Zubiri won a seat in the Senate.
During the Comelec counting at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC), Zubiri emerged No. 1 in Maguindanao province and won over 195,000 votes there. Gloria Arroyo’s senatorial bets won all the votes there while the opposition – that then included Benigno Aquino III – all got zero.
Arroyo’s spokesman Raul Lambino said the accusation was self-serving. Ampatuan merely wanted to save his own skin. By offering to testify against Arroyo, he might evade being charged for the 2009 massacre of 58 people, including 34 journalists, in Maguindanao, southern Philippines.
At that time, Ampatuan had already been in a maximum security cell for two years trying to avoid arraignment for the mass murder.
Ampatuan’s claim would probably have fallen by the wayside if another controversial personality had not surfaced three days later on July 13 and sang the same tune. Lintang Bedol, an election supervisor for the southern province of Sultan Kudarat and long wanted by the Comelec for cheating, suddenly gave an interview to ABS-CBN saying Arroyo cheated in the 2004 and 2007 elections.
Two weeks later, the man whom Zaldy Ampatuan claimed was the main beneficiary of cheating suddenly resigned from the Senate. Juan Miguel Zubiri vacated his Senate seat on August 3 tearfully saying:
Without admitting any fault and with my vehement denial of the alleged electoral fraud hurled against me, I am submitting my resignation as a duly elected Senator of the Republic of the Philippines in the election for which I am falsely accused without mercy and compassion.
Kung may nandaya po sa 2007 elections, wala po tayong kinalaman diyan…[If anyone cheated in the 2007 elections, we did not know anything about it.]
The candidate who had accused Zubiri of stealing the votes assumed Zubiri’s vacated seat and vowed to go after the “mastermind” of the cheating.
Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III had actually fought a lonely four-year battle to unseat Zubiri from the Senate and claim it as his. Way back in 2007, he had accused two provincial election officials, Lilian Radam and Yogie Martirizar, of cheating for Zubiri.
This is the same Yogie Martirizar whom I wrote about as having almost the same calcium deficiency disorder as Arroyo in my piece entitled – Gloria Arroyo stopped a woman, with an illness and a case just like hers, from leaving the country for four years
After Zubiri resigned, Yogie Martirizar and Lilian Radam suddenly volunteered to become state witnesses.
They signed affidavits admitting they had rigged the vote for Arroyo’s senatorial candidates and were helped by government forces in the cheating operation.
They also claimed that Arroyo’s own election lawyer Alberto Agra – whom she later appointed acting justice secretary – defended them against the poll fraud charges.
It was this domino of revelations which prompted Comelec to conduct a joint investigation with DOJ. Senator Pimentel immediately filed a complaint before the body, accusing Arroyo and others of electoral sabotage. He named Martirizar, Radam, Zaldy Ampatuan and Bedol as his witnesses.
During the investigation, 14 election officials and one technician working on computerized voters lists testified. The star witness of them all was Norie Unas, Maguindanao’s provincial administrator and the right hand man of Zaldy Ampatuan’s father, Andal Sr.
Unas claimed he accompanied Andal Sr to a dinner with Mrs Arroyo and her husband Jose Miguel inside Malacañang Palace shortly before the 2007 elections. There, Unas said Mrs Arroyo told Andal Sr. to “produce a 12-0 result in Maguindanao (for her 12 senatorial candidates), even if you have to rearrange or change the results.”
To this day, Mrs Arroyo has issued no comment on the charges upon the advice of her lawyer. The Arroyo couple’s lawyers had agreed to submit their counter-affidavits last Monday Nov 14. After that, the case would be deemed submitted for resolution.
Instead of doing that, their lawyers asked the Supreme Court last Friday Nov 11 to void the probe because it was “a kangaroo court.”
Then their lawyers told the panel that Monday Nov 14 to freeze the probe and wait for Supreme Court to act on their petition. The panel refused and Mike Arroyo’s lawyer Ferdinand Topacio stormed out and denounced the “railroading” of the investigation.
He said the panel disregarded the affidavit of Andal Sr. totally denying Unas’ claims.
Five days later on November 18, the Comelec used the panel results to file a complaint of electoral sabotage against Mrs Arroyo before Pasay City Regional Trial Court Judge Jesus Mupas, who then issued an arrest warrant that very night.
The rest is history.