Police yesterday arrested a former top election official who has been charged with voting fraud along with former Philippine president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
Former Elections chairman Benjamin Abalos surrendered to a Manila regional trial court in suburban Pasay City and was placed under arrest, police Superintendent Samuel Turla said. Authorities plan to hold Abalos in a police detention facility, unlike Arroyo, who is being detained in a government hospital while she recovers from a bone ailment.
Abalos said he surrendered to underscore his innocence to charges by Philippine President Benigno Aquino III’s administration that he played a role in rigging 2007 senatorial elections to ensure the victory of Arroyo’s candidates in a Muslim autonomous region then governed by her political ally.
Aquino succeeded Arroyo last year after a landslide election victory due in part to his promise to rid the Southeast Asian nation of widespread corruption and crushing poverty.
Aquino has blamed Arroyo for a decade of corruption scandals that eroded public trust in the government and held back foreign investment. Arroyo has denied any wrongdoing and accused her successor of using “black propaganda” to damage her image.
Police arrested Arroyo, 64, on Nov. 18 at a private hospital. She was later moved to a public veterans’ hospital amid calls for her to be treated like other crime suspects. Arroyo’s popularity ratings plummeted to record lows after she was accused of vote-rigging and corruption during her nine turbulent years in power.
On Monday, Aquino’s allies in the House of Representatives impeached Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona, whom he accused of hampering Arroyo’s prosecution. Lawmakers sent the eight impeachment complaints to the Senate, which is to act as an impeachment tribunal.
Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said Corona is likely to face trial next month after Congress returns from a monthlong Christmas break. Corona was impeached over allegations of corruption and court decisions favoring Arroyo, who appointed him as chief justice shortly before her term ended in June last year.
Aquino thanked lawmakers yesterday for impeaching Corona.
“We are now going through a process to stop the continued destruction by a wayward magistrate of the sacred institution that is the Supreme Court,” Aquino said.
However, Supreme Court spokesman Midas Marquez called Corona’s impeachment “an assault on all the rights, power and privilege of the entire judiciary,” which he said was being “forced to surrender its constitutionally mandated powers and functions to the whim and caprice of political machinations.”