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A total of 54 witnesses, mostly election officers, are set to testify in the trial of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and two others for poll sabotage, which is scheduled to start in two months.
A report from GMA News’ Lei Alviz said the Pasay City Regional Trial Court Branch 112, presided by Judge Jesus Mupas, already scheduled the start of Mrs. Arroyo’s poll sabotage trial on January 31, after pre-trial procedures ended on Thursday morning.
Also being tried for electoral sabotage are former Maguindanao election supervisor Lintang Bedol and former Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan Sr.
The three are being accused of rigging the 2007 midterm elections to favor administration senatorial bets during Mrs. Arroyo’s incumbency. All of them have pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The report added that the prosecution panel, composed of lawyers from the Department of Justice and the Commission on Elections (Comelec), asked the Pasay City court not to schedule hearings in April and May next year to give way to preparations for the 2013 midterm polls.
“Nirerequest namin sa judge because we are already at the thick of preparations at that time. Most of our witnesses are election officers involved in elections. I think the court and other party will understand na syempre uunahin muna natin ang elections, pero definitely after the elections we can have marathon hearings,” lawyer Jane Valeza, prosecution panel head, said in the television report.
Lawyer Benjamin Santos, Mrs. Arroyo’s counsel in the poll sabotage case, however, objected to the prosecution’s request because it supposedly violate his client’s right to speedy trial.
Although electoral sabotage is a non-bailable offense, the Pasay court allowed Mrs. Arroyo last July to post bail for the case, citing lack of evidence to establish that the ex-President conspired with her co-accused to rig the 2007 elections. The former President, however, is still currently under hospital arrest at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center in Quezon City for a separate plunder case she is facing before the Sandiganbayan anti-graft court for the alleged misuse of Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office funds during her incumbency. — with Andreo Calonzo/RSJ, GMA News