PASAY CITY — The Pasay City Regional Trial Court (RTC) on Monday deferred the arraignment of former Commission on Election (Comelec) Benjamin Abalos Sr. on the 11 counts of electoral sabotage charges pending resolution of a motion to quash the charges.
Pasay City RTC Branch 117 Eugenio dela Cruz, instead ordered the prosecution to file comments on the motion within 10 days and the defense to answer in five days.
Dela Cruz’s sala handles the 11 counts of electoral sabotage charges filed against the former Comelec chair in connection with alleged fraud in the 2007 mid-term election.
The 11 counts of electoral sabotage charges were separate from a similar case being handled by Pasay City RTC Branch 112 Judge Jesus Mupas, of which Abalos is also set to be arraigned on Feb. 13. His co-accused, former president and now Pampanga 2nd District Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, is scheduled to enter her plea on the same charges on Feb. 20.
The 77-year old Abalos is currently detained at the headquarters of the Southern Police District (SPD) in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig after Mupas issued a warrant for his arrest late last year.
Abalos’s lawyer Brigido Dulay said the case was filed against Abalos and former election supervisor Lilian Suan-Radam last month by prosecutors from the poll body.
Dulay said Abalos and Suan-Radam were allegedly involved in the “dagdag-bawas” (vote padding-vote shaving) operations in South Cotabato that affected 11 candidates for senator in the 2007 mid-term polls.
But the case lacked merit and should have been filed before the Sandiganbayan and not before the regional trial courts since the offense imputed was committed in relation to his office, Dulay said.
“Itong ating motion to quash ay effectively a call to dismiss the charges kasi wala syang basehan at isa pa dapat ang kaso kay Chairman ay sa Sandiganbayan at hindi sa regional trial court isinampa (This motion to quash is effectively a call to dismiss the charges because there were no basis and one thing more the case filed against the Chairman must be heard in Sandiganbayan not in the regional trial court),” Dulay said.