Thursday, October 6, 2011

A Repost From Aurea Calica of The Philippine Star

Palace distances self from poll fraud probe
By Aurea Calica (The Philippine Star) Updated October 07, 2011 12:00 AM Comments (126) View comments

MANILA, Philippines - MalacaƱang is keeping its distance from pronouncements by Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Sixto Brillantes that former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her husband Jose Miguel Arroyo might spend Christmas in jail if indicted for election sabotage.

“MalacaƱang is hands off on the matter because they are still appreciating, evaluating the evidence. So let’s wait for that. We are also awaiting the results of their investigation,” presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said in a press briefing yesterday.

“We are not privy to the deliberations going on in the task force. So it’s a statement made by Brillantes. So we don’t know the stage at which they are right now.”

A joint Comelec-Department of Justice (DOJ) task force is establishing probable cause to charge the Arroyo couple with election sabotage for allegedly masterminding cheating in the 2007 senatorial elections.

Lacierda stressed there would be no special treatment for the Arroyos if they are indicted and detained for a non-bailable election offense.

“These are being studied. We don’t know what the status is right now. We don’t even know when it’s going to happen. But, nonetheless, everyone has to go through the legal process. If it is filed before the courts, it will be subject to the discretion of the courts and once it’s filed with the court, we know that we’re all hands off when it comes to that,” Lacierda said.

He said he he did not know why Brillantes made such a statement.

“Maybe because he’s involved in the task force, he is in a better position to dictate the pace by which the task force is undergoing the investigation,” Lacierda said. “So I leave it to them.”

Obvious bias

Meanwhile, the lawyer of Mr. Arroyo said yesterday Brillantes should resign for his obvious bias against his client.

Lawyer Inocencio Ferrer said Brillantes, who is leading a joint investigation with the DOJ on alleged electoral fraud committed by his client and Mrs. Arroyo, cannot be trusted to make a fair judgment because of his repeated public statements even when the probe is not finished.

He also cited reports that Brillantes was election lawyer for various opposition candidates against the previous administration as well as the notorious Ampatuan clan in the past elections.

“Brillantes should resign because his public pronouncement of the guilt of the Arroyos and his statement that the Arroyos will spend Christmas in jail before any complaint has been filed and prior to a trial have clearly shown his bias, prejudgment and clear conflict of interest,” Ferrer said in a text message.

“He should resign to protect the institution of the Comelec,” he said.

Brillantes earlier said the testimony of former Maguindanao provincial administrator Norie Unas could help prove the Arroyos’ involvement in alleged manipulation of votes.

He reiterated yesterday that the statement of Unas is strong and only his former boss, former Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr., can disprove it.

In his sworn affidavit, Unas alleged that Mrs. Arroyo had ordered Ampatuan to rig the elections in Maguindanao in favor of her Team Unity (TU) senatorial bets. – With Paolo Romero, Sheila Crisostomo

Reposted From Aurea Calica of The Philippine Star

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