Photo by Paterno Esmaquel II
[UPDATED] MANILA, Philippines – Lawyers of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo have established that Norie Unas, the star witness in Mrs Arroyo's electoral sabotage case, did not personally witness actual cheating in the 2007 senatorial elections.
Unas admitted this Thursday, June 14, when he took the witness stand and underwent cross-examination at the Pasay Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 112 in connection with Mrs Arroyo's bail petition. (Read: Star witness testifies vs GMA.)
The court could allow Mrs Arroyo, who is under hospital arrest, to post bail if the prosecution fails to show strong evidence of guilt.
During the cross-examination, Unas said he did not have personal knowledge of the actual cheating in the 2007 polls. He had accused Mrs Arroyo of instructing his superior, former Maguindanao Gov Andal Ampatuan Sr, to rig the elections.
“I have not seen how they did it but I know they are doing it,” said Unas, a former Maguindanao provincial administrator and right-hand man of Ampatuan.
Lawyers from the Commission on Elections (Comelec), which filed the case, said Unas knows "nothing" about the documents that allegedly prove cheating in the 2007 polls.
“If there's no relation to any of these certificates of canvas, then what crime are you trying to prove?" defense lawyer Reynaldo Prinsesa remarked.
In Unas' testimony earlier during the day, he said he handled the logistics in the alleged election cheating that was supposedly operated by former Maguindanao election supervisor Lintang Bedol. Part of his job was to facilitate funding, Unas said.
Prinsesa, however, shrugged this off. “He does not know anything personally. He's just assuming that since he gave money, there was already cheating. What if it's a campaign. You know, in election campaigns, you give money,” he told reporters after the hearing.
“Of course that's their contention,” said Comelec's legal department head, Esmeralda Ladra, in a separate interview. “May personal knowledge siya kasi siya ang sidekick ni Andal Ampatuan Sr.” (He has personal knowledge because he is the sidekick of Andal Ampatuan Sr.)
Another defense lawyer, Sigfrid Fortun, also attempted to prove that Unas' testimony is hearsay.
Questioning Unas, Fortun established that only 3 people were present when Mrs Arroyo allegedly instructed Unas' superior, former Maguindanao Gov Andal Ampatuan Sr, to rig the 2007 senatorial elections. (Read: Ampatuan aide tags GMA, Mike Arroyo in poll fraud.)
The 3 people were Mrs Arroyo, Ampatuan, and Unas himself, as the star witness himself confirmed.
Fortun said this means no one else could corroborate Unas' affidavit, describing it as “(his) word against theirs.”
The bail hearing ended at past 5 pm, with both camps agreeing to submit relevant documents to the court early next week. — Rappler.com
Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.