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Pimentel files electoral sabotage case vs. ex-President Arroyo

(Updated 7:43 p.m.) Senator Aquilino “Koko" Pimentel III filed on Monday a non-bailable electoral sabotage case against former President and incumbent Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for supposedly ordering electoral fraud in 2007. In a complaint filed before the Department of Justice (DOJ)-Commission on Elections (Comelec) joint panel, Pimentel said Arroyo “conspired" with more than 10 other officials to tamper election results from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). Also included in the complaint, among others, are former First Gentlemen Jose Miguel “Mike" Arroyo, former Comelec chief Benjamin Abalos, former Comelec Commissioner Nicodemo Ferrer, regional poll director lawyer Michael Abas, former presidential political adviser Gabriel Claudio and his executive assistant Bong Serrano. The senator said that the supposed “grand plan" to tamper with the votes caused “the erroneous proclamation of a non-winner." “The mere fact that I am now a senator after four years of struggle and the findings of the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) on electoral fraud — those are already enough proof that there was electoral sabotage," he said in a phone interview. “Dapat may makulong… Ang sama ng ginawa nila," he added. In his complaint, Pimentel used the testimonies of former Maguindanao election supervisor Lintang Bedol, detained former ARMM Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan, former Maguindanao provincial administrator Norie Unas and former provincial poll supervisors Lilian Radam and Yogie Martirizar. Unas, who served as a former aide to the Ampatuans, claimed during the joint-panel hearings that he was present when Mrs. Arroyo gave the instructions to ensure the victory of administration senatorial candidates in Maguindanao. Last August, Pimentel was proclaimed the 12th winning senator in the controversial 2007 polls after the SET found out some of the ballots during the elections were spurious and were accomplished by more than one person. Juan Miguel Zubiri, who was initially proclaimed by the Comelec as the winner four years ago, was replaced by Pimentel. Zubiri resigned last Aug. 3 from the Senate. The Omnibus Election Code, as amended by Republic Act 9369, says that electoral sabotage is committed when a person “tampers, increases or decreases the votes received by a candidate in any election" or when a member of the board of election inspector “refuses after proper verification and hearing to credit the correct votes or deduct such tampered votes." The law also states that persons who conspire to commit electoral sabotage shall be penalized with life imprisonment. — VS, GMA News