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Arroyo camp hits DOJ 'meddling' in poll sabotage case

The camp of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Monday criticized the Justice Department's alleged meddling in the poll sabotage case filed against the former Philippine leader and several others in connection with the alleged irregularities during the 2007 elections.
“The recent moves of Justice Secretary Leila De Lima in attempting to dominate the proceedings in the electoral sabotage case before the Pasay Regional Trial Court... bolsters our contention all along made before the Supreme Court that the Commission on Elections (Comelec) is fast becoming an adjunct of the Executive branch, to the peril of basic constitutional precepts about the independence of the Comelec," Ferdinand Topacio, legal counsel and spokesman of Mrs. Arroyo's husband, former First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo, said in a statement.
Earlier, De Lima confirmed the government prosecutors' plan to turn lawyers Lilian Suan Radam and Yogi Martirizar, the two provincial election supervisors charged in the same electoral sabotage case, into state witnesses.
Also accused in the poll sabotage case are former Elections chief Benjamin Abalos Sr., former Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan Sr., and former Maguindanao provincial poll supervisor Lintang Bedol.
The camp of Abalos had accused the DOJ of pressuring the poll body into dropping the charges against the two poll supervisors.
De Lima denied that they were pressuring the Comelec. But she stressed that "of course [they] can meddle" in the case because they are part of the prosecution team. 'Dangerous mindset'
Topacio, however, said the DOJ chief's "arrogant assertion" shows the "dangerous mindset of the officials of the Executive Department."
“Clearly, the agents of Malacañang are now acting as if the Comelec were under the Executive branch. As an alter ego of the President, the DOJ Secretary may have unwittingly betrayed the dictatorial inclinations of the chief executive in trying to overrule an independent constitutional body in the exercise of its powers and prerogatives," he said.
Topacio added that it was common knowledge that De Lima and Comelec chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. were very close because they practiced election law together.
“So the protestations of Chairman Brillantes as to this latest incursion to the powers of the Comelec cannot be taken seriously," he said.
Because of this, Topacio said their only hope is that the Supreme Court will grant their petition to strike down the joint DOJ-Comelec fact finding and preliminary investigating panel.
“It is our hope that the Supreme Court, as the final bastion of Constitutional rights, will forthwith nip in the bud the attempts of the executive to dilute and ultimately destroy the constitutionally-mandated autonomy of the Comelec...before the erosion to our Constitutional government becomes irreversible," he said. — RSJ, GMA News