POSTSCRIPT / April 17, 2012 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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De Lima’s using election saboteurs raises alarm

CRY ‘WOLF’ LOUDER: What will the administration do now in the face of reports that North Korea has paraded a ballistic missile bigger than its earlier model that had plunked into the sea a minute after its launching last Friday?

Communal fishermen may soon have to be barred anew from venturing out into waters along the trajectory of an experimental missile launching while nearby communities are again alerted on possible evacuation to non-existent fallout shelters. Another Big Scare?

The new missile was displayed in a parade marking the birth centennial of Kim-il-sung, the late North Korean founder, amid fears that Pyongyang is bent on producing long-range attack missiles and gaining nuclear capability.

No immediate precautionary action was announced by the administration as, lacking the means to directly cull information, it was still awaiting the US Pacific Command to pass on technical information to clients.

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ABALOS CASE: Former judge and Mandaluyong mayor Benjamin Abalos may not have been exactly blameless during his tenure as Commission on Elections chairman, but that is no excuse for the administration to go after him without regard for due process.

There will never be respect for law in this country if those in power routinely violate legal procedures and constitutional rights as they harass their perceived political enemies.

Abalos has reason to complain that he is being pilloried and denied the right to confront the witnesses against him in the electoral sabotage case filed against him.

His lawyers protest that Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and the joint Department of Justice-Comelec panel handling his case have thrown out due process.

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STATE WITNESSES: Their griping grew louder with the panel’s use of the questioned affidavits of Cotabato election officials Susan Radam and Yogi Martirizar who are themselves accused of massive poll fraud.

To save their necks, the confessed poll manipulators surfaced after hiding for four years to be used by De Lima as state witnesses against Abalos.

The deal appears to be for their testifying against their former boss in exchange for their being cleared of charges that they had tampered with election documents to favor Team Unity senatorial candidates of the Arroyo administration in the May 2007 elections.

The plot thickened after it was revealed that the two witnesses had retained a lawyer who was reportedly a classmate of De Lima and who, according to Abalos’ counsel, is that influential at the justice department. De Lima has denied being close to the lawyer.

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TOE DOJ LINE: De Lima appears obsessed with the Abalos case, frequently talking about it. She has preempted the Comelec’s decision on the clearing of Radam and Martirizar whose disclosures had resulted in 12 counts of poll sabotage against the former Comelec chairman.

The justice secretary seems to have arrogated unto herself the duty of speaking on behalf of the DoJ-Comelec panel and propagating the line that the testimonies of Radam and Martirizar provide the quantum of evidence needed to nail down Abalos.

She has announced that the Comelec was going to junk the charges against Radam and Martirizar, thus pulling the rug from under Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes. The independent constitutional commission has been reduced to toeing the De Lima line.

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DEAL FOR DUO: Radam, the Comelec provincial election supervisor in South Cotabato, and Martirizar, election supervisor in neighboring North Cotabato, had been found by the Comelec en banc to have fabricated election results and forged signatures of election officials.

Then Comelec chief Abalos ordered the book thrown at the two officials, but they vanished after dozens of cases were filed against them.

All the duo’s denials were dismissed by the Comelec. From Abalos to his successor Chairman Jose Melo, the poll body never wavered in having the two officials prosecuted.

The two accused found reason to surface only after De Lima gave assurance that they would be used as state witnesses.

From the time the Comelec charged them with election sabotage in June 2007, Radam and Martizar had offered the same defenses and never mentioned Abalos as the mastermind. Now they suddenly do.

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NOTEWORTHY: Abalos may have committed some wrongdoing along the way, but these oddities strewn along the “tuwid na daan” are noteworthy:

The two Cotabato election supervisors, in hiding for four years, suddenly surfaced when President Noynoy Aquino vowed to punish election cheats.

The duo had admitted committing the offenses ascribed to them but are now being rehabilitated and recycled as state witnesses even if they are not the least guilty. This, even after they had been arraigned and 23 arrest warrants issued against them.

In August 2011, the Comelec under Chairman Sixto Brillantes turned around on the Martirizar case and dropped the election sabotage charges against her even as the case is being heard in court.

Radam and Martirizar were reformed into state witnesses after they signed affidavits pointing at Abalos as the mastermind.

Aside from being rewarded with the junking of her cases, Radam was enrolled in the Witness Protection Program of the justice department.

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RUSH ACTION: Abalos complains of unfair treatment and the denial of his right to challenge the evidence offered by Radam and Martirizar, who claimed that in a meeting in a restaurant, Abalos spoke of an order from Malacañang about a 12-0 victory for the Team Unity senatorial slate.

He sought to respond to the affidavits of Radam and Martirizar, but the DoJ-Comelec panel announced on Nov. 15, 2011, that it was already set to resolve the case.

The panel did resolve it in less than 24 hours and the 12 charges for election sabotage were filed the next day.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of April 17, 2012)

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