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Comelec lawyer: Witness in Gloria Arroyo poll fraud case missing

(Updated 1 p.m.) A former election officer who linked former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to poll fraud in 2007 has gone missing, the Commission on Elections said Thursday. Comelec lawyer Maria Juana Valeza said they lost contact with former Maguindanao election officer Russam Mabang early morning, radio dzBB's Sam Nielsen reported. The report quoted Valeza as telling Pasay City Judge Jesus Mupas that while they had arranged Mabang's appearance before the court for Thursday, the security personnel at Mabang's safehouse could not find Mabang Thursday morning. Meanwhile, a report on "Balitanghali" said former Maguindanao provincial administrator Norie Unas has withdrawn her testimony for security reasons. The report quoted Valeza as saying Unas feared for her life and the security of her family and decided fo withdraw from the poll fraud case. Mabang was to corroborate the testimony of Unas linking Mrs. Arroyo, now a Pampanga congresswoman, to alleged poll fraud in 2007. The Comelec had hoped Mabang's testimony would help counter the bid for bail of Mrs. Arroyo and other former officials, including former election official Lintang Bedol and former Commission on Elections chairman Benjamin Abalos. Valeza asked the court to reset the hearing so they can find and present Mabang, the report said. For his part, Bedol's lawyer Reynaldo Princesa suggested the affidavit of Mabang in 2011 be used instead. Mrs. Arroyo has been under hospital arrest since Nov. 18 after the Pasay City court issued a warrant for her arrest over electoral sabotage charges. — LBG/RSJ/KG, GMA News