Benjamin Abalos
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MANILA — Former Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Benjamin Abalos was not arraigned last March 5 on 11 counts of electoral sabotage filed against him as the Pasay City regional trial court (RTC) deferred the scheduled arraignment.

RTC Branch 117 Judge Eugenio dela Cruz postponed the arraignment of Abalos and his co-accused Attorney Lilian Radam, provincial election supervisor in South Cotobato, saying the court must first resolve a motion to quash the charges filed by the former Comelec chairman.

Based on the order of Dela Cruz, the court will come out with a resolution on the motion to quash filed by Abalos’s lawyer, Brigido Dilay, who questioned the jurisdiction of the court in hearing the 11 counts of electoral sabotage filed against the former Comelec chairman.

Dela Cruz said the court has also to  resolve other motions and other issues such as the motion to fix bail and the show-cause order against Radam who is currently under the Witness Protection Program (WPP) of the Department of Justice.

Dulay has questioned the continuous protection being given to Radam by the WPP while there is a pending warrant of arrest against her.

He said that Radam must not enjoy the provisional custody under WPP because of the warrant of arrest issued against her, adding that she must also be turned over to the jurisdiction of court which would issue a commitment order specifying the place where she should be confined.

A Comelec team headed by Attorney Esmeralda Ladra said she believes Dela Cruz will deny the motion to quash and the motion to fix bail. The team said it is ready to present its witnesses and evidence on the electoral sabotage case against Abalos.

Ladra said the Comelec has at least 22 witnesses to prove that Abalos committed the offense charged. Because of the strong evidence, Abalos should not be allowed to post bail, he added. (Jeanne Fernando, Manila Bulletin)