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CGMA lawyers withdraw appearance in electoral sabotage case

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Veteran lawyer Jose Flaminiano and his law office on Monday withdrew their appearance as counsels of former President and now Pampanga 2nd District Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in the electoral sabotage case before the Pasay City Regional Trial Court (RTC).

Aside from Flaminiano, the other members of Arroyo’s legal team in the electoral sabotage case, who have also withdrawn, were Jay Bernardo Flaminiano, Allan Duenas and Laurence Hector Arroyo.

Arroyo formally announced their withdrawal during Monday’s hearing of the case at the sala of Pasay RTC Branch 112 Presiding Judge Jesus Mupas.

But he denied they were abandoning the former president in her legal battles adding that the move was done so that they could focus on other charges pending before the Sandiganbayan.

He said it was Arroyo herself who instructed them to focus on the cases pending before the anti-graft court.

“Mayroong tatlong kaso na nasa Sandiganbayan, so inutusan kami ng dating Pangulong Arroyo na hawakan yun and dun na mag-concentrate. This is more of a legal strategy para hindi mahati ang atensyon namin (There is three case in Sandiganbayan, the former President order us to concentrate on that case. This is more legal strategy so our attention will be focused on the three cases),” Arroyo said.

The 64-year old Arroyo faces charges for violations of Republic Act 3019, or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and Republic Act 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees before the Sandiganbayan in connection with the botched US$ 9-million National Broadband Network (NBN) deal with China’s ZTE Corp..

Also charged with Arroyo in the NBN-ZTE case were former Commission on Election (Comelec) Chairman Benjamin Abalos Sr. and former Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) Secretary Leandro Mendoza.

Asked if the move meant that the former leader’s camp believed that the government has a strong case before the Sandiganbayan compared to the electoral charges, Arroyo refused to answer directly saying they would check and read first the documents in the anti-graft court.

“Hindi pa namin nababasa ang mga records nung kaso sa Sandiganbayan, so titingnan muna namin (We have not read yet the records of the case in Sandiganbayan, so we will see it first),” he said.

Taking the place of Flaminiano and his team was lawyer Benjamin Santos.

Also on Monday’s hearing, Santos asked Mupas to recall the warrant of arrest he issued against Arroyo last year saying that the prosecution’s case against him is weak.

Santos also questioned the “haste” in the issuance of the warrant adding that a careful reading of the evidence presented by the prosecution would show to warrant not only Arroyo’s arrest but also the filing of the case.

“Was their sufficient evidence to warrant the arrest order or even the filing of the charges? We submit there was none your Honor. Was there a crime committed? None, so we are asking the court to please review the documents presented by the prosecution,” he said.

He also questioned how the allegedly tampered certificates of canvass (COC) presented by the prosecution was surprisingly certified as “authentic copies” when even Comelec Commissioner Nicodemo Ferrer have reported that the original copies of the COCs’ got lost while under the custody of former Maguindanao election supervisor Lintang Bedol.

Santos added that even the Solicitor General who represented the government in the preliminary investigation of the charges have admitted that the only evidence they have against Arroyo was the statement of former Maguindanao provincial administrator Norie Unas.

In his statement to the Justice department, Unas said he was in Malacanang with former Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. when he heard Arroyo ordering the former to ensure the win of the administration bets in the province in the 2007 mid-term polls.

But Comelec laywer Esmeralda Ladra insisted they have a strong case against Arroyo adding that contrary to Santos’ assertion, the defense panel were given all the documents but that the failure to contest the charges lie with them as they did not file any counter-affidavit during the joint DOJ-Comelec panel hearing.

The court said it might issue a resolution on the said motion next week while the petition for house arrest and bail were still pending.

By PNA




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