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MANILA, Philippines –- The Pasay City Regional Trial Court (RTC) on Thursday started the pre-trial hearing on electoral sabotage charges against former president and now Pampanga 2nd District Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as the prosecution panel said it is ready to present 55 witnesses.
The prosecution panel submitted a 28-page document containing the names of 55 witnesses, including municipal election officers in the province of Maguindanao, as well as several media personalities after much wrangling between opposing parties during the hearing at the sala of Pasay RTC Branch 112 Presiding Judge Jesus Mupas.
Also included in the list are prosecution’s star witness Nurie Unas, the former provincial administrator of Maguindanao who, in his affidavit said he heard Arroyo giving order to Ampatuan to rig the results of the 2007 senatorial elections in favor of the administration bets and former Congressman Prospero Pichay.
Earlier, Ray Montri Santos, one of the legal counsels of the former president, pressed the prosecution to submit their list to the court adding that they have already done so.
“We have already made clear our position in the previous hearing. They should submit their pre-trial brief now since they have no reason not to do so,” Santos said.
Assistant State Prosecutor Maria Elvira Herrera stressed that they are not delaying the proceeding by not submitting the list in writing adding that they have already identified the documents they would present to the court for the trial.
“We are not delaying the proceeding nor are we reluctant since we have all the evidence against them but for security reasons, we cannot divulge the name of all our witnesses,” she said.
In a related development, Arroyo through her lawyers, denied all the facts contained in the information filed by the prosecution during the stipulation of facts at the hearing, including those related to accusations that she conspired with her co-accused to rig the results of the 2007 polls.
Santos said her client only acknowledged her identity and position as the country’s president.
Before the trial adjourned, Herrera asked the court to sanction Arroyo for her non-appearance at the hearing but Mupas did not resolve her oral motion.
But Santos said the former chief executive has already executed a waiver on her attending the pre-trial.
Last July 25, Mupas granted Arroyo’s petition for bail for her temporary liberty in relation to alleged electoral fraud in Maguindanao during the May 2007 midterm election.
The court ruled that the prosecution failed to present a strong case in their opposition to the bail petition of the Pampanga congresswoman.
Mupas, however, denied the bail petitions of former Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. and former Commission on Elections (Comelec) officer Lintang Bedol because of the testimony of former Maguindanao administrator Norie Unas’ implicating them in the alleged cheating.