(UPDATED) MANILA, Philippines – He holds the most crucial testimony against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in the electoral sabotage case for which she remains under hospital arrest.
On Wednesday, June 14, former Maguindanao provincial administrator Norie Unas, the star witness in the case, appeared in court to prove that Mrs Arroyo doesn't deserve to be granted bail.
The Pasay Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 112 is hearing Mrs Arroyo's petition to post bail. If the court finds no strong evidence of guilt against her, it could allow the former President to post bail and be released from hospital arrest at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center. (Read: Burden on the prosecution to deny GMA bail.)
Unas, the known right-hand man of former Maguindanao Gov Datu Andal Ampatuan Sr, tagged Arroyo in alleged fraud in the 2007 senatorial elections. His testimony was similar to the affidavit he submitted last year, in which he said Mrs Arroyo allegedly instructed Ampatuan to rig the 2007 polls.
Unas said days before the elections, he went with Ampatuan to a dinner with Mrs Arroyo as well as presidential adviser for political affairs Gabriel Claudio, and the Arroyo administration's senatorial bets led by Prospero Pichay, Vicente Magsaysay, Tessie Aquino-Oreta, and Juan Miguel Zubiri.
Mrs Arroyo allegedly emphasized that her senatorial bets should win in Maguindanao. In response, Ampatuan supposedly promised that “Maguindanao was the extension of Pampanga” and that “Maguindanao will deliver the votes.”
Unas added that after the dinner, he heard Mrs Arroyo instruct Ampatuan: “Dapat 12-0 sa Maguindanao, kahit pa ayusin o palitan ninyo ang resulta.” (It should be 12-0 in Maguindanao in favor of the administration, even if you have to manipulate the results.)
A day later, former First Gentleman Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo allegedly gave Ampatuan a similar instruction in a closed-door meeting. (Read: Ampatuan aide tags GMA, Mike Arroyo in poll fraud.)
The bail hearing is ongoing as of posting time.
Earlier, presiding judge Jesus Mupas decided to close the bail hearing for the prosecution after the Comelec failed to present Unas as well as another witness, Russam Mabang. A lawyer associated with the Arroyos, Ferdinand Topacio, told Rappler this further weakened the case that was already weak to begin with. (Read: Bigger chance for GMA bail.) — 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 email@example.com.