‘Political persecution’

Munir Arbison

Deputy Speaker decries revival of old arson case in Sulu.

DEPUTY Speaker and Sulu Rep. Munir Arbison yesterday decried as “political persecution” the revival of the case involving 17 counts of alleged arson against him, saying he had nothing to do with the more than 20-year-old case.

In a press conference, Deputy Speaker and Sulu Rep. Munir Arbison said the case prevented him from filing his certificate of candidacy (CoC), adding that this was “mere fabrication” by his political opponents in Sulu.

“I am fighting political persecution. Seventeen counts of arson were filed, fabricated ito lahat. ‘Yung mga (complainants) nakapirma ay namatay na, at ‘yung iba naman ay nasa Malaysia na,” Arbison told reporters in a hastily called press conference at the House of Representatives.

At the same time, Arbison sought a legislative investigation in aid of legislation into the alleged abuses committed by some Sulu local officials and their cohorts in the police service.

Arbison, who is seeking reelection as representative of the second district of Sulu, said he was prevented from filing his CoC at the Commission on Elections (Comelec) in Sulu because policemen from the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) detailed at the poll body’s office were waiting for him to show up to arrest him.

Arbison said he intends to file his COC through his lawyer. He did not mention the date, but the deadline of filing is on Wednesday.

He said there were 17 arson cases filed against him and the seven warrants of arrest issued by the local court against him have been stopped from being implemented by the Court of Appeals (CA) through temporary restraining orders (TRO).

“This is political harassment pure and simple. If this is done against me, a congressman, a House Deputy Speaker, how much more to an ordinary citizen. We have already filed a manifestation before the Court of Appeals and yet the PNP-CIDG seemed to have refused to honor this,” said Arbison.

He added: “I have nothing to do with this case. This is almost a 20-year case. The complainants were merely made to sign an affidavit – they executed an affidavit – despite the absence of a police report and a fire department report on the alleged fire.”

And having secured a TRO for the seven cases, Arbison said the Philippine National Police (PNP)-CIDG again asked the court to issue another arrest warrant against him.

“Most of the complainants were already dead even before the filing of the case or already residing in Malaysia,” Arbison said, even as he accused his political rivals in Sulu as being behind the “political persecution” he is currently fighting, adding that the alleged arson took place in Luuk, Sulu.

“After the issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) by the Court of Appeals (CA), another warrant of arrest that covers only one (1) count of arson was issued against me, permitting the possible issuance of more for the remaining six charges,” he added.