One judge OKs Abalos trip; he needs to convince other judgeBy Niña Calleja, Kristine Felisse Mangunay
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Former Commission on Elections (Comelec) chairman Benjamin Abalos was finally allowed by the Pasay Regional Trial Court handling some of his electoral sabotage cases to fly to Taiwan.
In a resolution, Judge Jesus Mupas of Pasay Regional Trial Court Branch 112 on Monay reversed his earlier decision denying Abalos’ request to travel to Taiwan and lifted the hold-departure order against the former Comelec chief.
Mupas said Abalos would be free to travel to Taiwan from Nov. 27 to 30 to meet with prospective suppliers of bangus fry for his aquaculture business once he has posted a cash bond of P100,000 for each of the two counts of election sabotage against him.
Mupas said Abalos should report to the court within five days of returning from Taiwan.
The Sandiganbayan, which is hearing his graft and corruption case stemming from the botched NBN-ZTE deal, had earlier granted his motion to travel upon the posting of a bond.
However, Abalos still cannot travel to Taiwan in the absence of a go-signal from another judge.
Judge Eugenio de la Cruz of Pasay RTC Branch 117, who is handling separate electoral sabotage charges against Abalos, still has to decide on the latter’s bid to travel abroad.
Abalos is facing two counts of electoral sabotage in Branch 112 for alleged irregularities in the results of the 2007 senatorial elections in North Cotabato. In Branch 117, he is facing 12 counts of electoral sabotage for alleged cheating in South Cotabato.
In a phone interview, Abalos said that while he was happy with Judge Mupas’ favorable
ruling, he could not go anywhere yet because Judge De la Cruz had yet to resolve his separate motion to travel.
“You cannot compel a court to (act on a motion immediately). I will have to wait for a favorable resolution (on the motion to leave from Branch 117),” Abalos explained.
Abalos said he would definitely ask for a rescheduling of his trip to Taiwan to the third or fourth week of January should De la Cruz act favorably on his request.
This, according to him, would also give the Department of Foreign Affairs time to revalidate his passport.
He said he could not leave in December since this was the holiday season.
He reiterated that he was not a flight risk, saying he voluntarily surrendered when he learned about the arrest warrant issued by the courts.
The 77-year-old Abalos was detained for eight months at the Southern Police District headquarters. He was granted temporary liberty by the courts handling his case. They cited the weak evidence against him and his failing health.
In his Nov. 5 resolution, Judge Mupas doubted the urgency for Abalos to go abroad for his aquaculture business and rejected his request to travel. Abalos then filed a motion for reconsideration.