MANILA — The Court of Appeals (CA) has upheld the refusal of a Pasay City Regional Trial Court (RTC) judge to inhibit himself from handling the electoral sabotage case against former President and now Pampanga (2nd District) Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and former Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Benjamin Abalos, Sr.
In a 10-page ruling written by Associate Justice Manuel Barrios, the CA’s Special 17th Division denied Abalos’ petition for certiorari and prohibition.
The CA sustained the orders dated Jan. 24, 2012 and Feb. 22, 2012 of the Pasay City RTC Branch 112.
Concurring with the ruling were Associate Justices Normandie Pizzaro and Carmelita Salandanan Manahan.
Abalos is facing electoral sabotage charges before Presiding Judge Jesus Mupas in connection with the alleged rigging of the results of the past elections during the term of Arroyo when the former was the Comelec chief.
He alleged that shortly after the cases were filed and raffled to Mupas’ branch, a certain Atty. May Mercado — who claimed to be an emissary of the judge – informed him that for the amount of Php1 million, Mupas would be lenient on the former Comelec chair, beginning with the grant of bail, and eventually rule for his exoneration, which he allegedly rejected.
After sometime, he alleged that he was again contacted by a certain Jojo Desiderio who requested for a personal meeting to relay a very urgent matter from him.
Abalos acceded to the request and together with Atty. Pablito Gahol and Barangay Chairman Edmund Espiritu, met with Desiderio at the Richmond Hotel.
Desiderio allegedly advised Abalos that he could be out on bail if he initially gives Php15 million and another Php15 million upon his release, which he again rejected.
A warrant of arrest was issued against Abalos on Dec. 13, 2011, however, he opted to surrender.
The Abalos camp eventually filed an urgent motion to inhibit against Mupas, but was denied, as well as his motion for reconsideration.
This prompted Abalos to elevate the case to the CA.
In his petition, Abalos accused Mupas of prejudging towards him and gravely abusing his discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction in refusing to recuse himself merely on his own belief that he could still render impartial trial and judgment in the cases against the former Comelec chief.
He also cited the alleged extort attempts on him made by the camp of Mupas.
In the Oct. 16, 2014 ruling, the CA said Abalos failed “to show any connection of a certain Atty. Mercado or Atty. Desiderio to respondent Judge [Mupas.]”
“It is certainly unfair and unjust to impute upon respondent judge assertions of bias, prejudice, hostility, or impropriety for that matter arising from petitioner’s alleged meeting with two (2) lawyers…” the CA added.
On the closed-circuit television (CCTV) footages presented by Abalos to prove his meeting with the two lawyers, the CA said “such footage cannot prove the matter of their conversation, much less, about the attempt to extort money.”
It added “to accept the latter scenario would be totally incredulous.”