Court suspends Philippines tax

Philippines President Gloria Arroyo has suffered another setback after the Supreme Court froze an expanded sales tax, hours after it took effect. 

The expansion, to areas like fuel and electricity, was meant to raise revenue to tackle the government's deficit. 

But the court immediately suspended it on constitutional grounds, ordering a court hearing on 26 July. 

The decision came as more than 5,000 Filipinos took to the streets of Manila to demand Mrs Arroyo's resignation. 

The rallies followed a difficult week for Mrs Arroyo. She has been accused of vote-rigging, while her family has been accused of taking bribes. 

More people attended Friday's rally than other recent protests. But there were still only a fraction of the number that took to the streets for the "people power" uprisings that ousted two of Mrs Arroyo's predecessors, Joseph Estrada and Ferdinand Marcos.

Mrs Arroyo admitted on Monday that rumours she had contacted an election official during the vote count of the May 2004 elections were true, and asked the nation to forgive her for a "lapse of judgement". 

But in a sign that Mrs Arroyo's key Roman Catholic support base may be weakening, a senior clergyman issued a thinly veiled attack on Friday. 

Archbishop of Manila Gaudencio Rosales said: "Genuine forgiveness demands more than an apology, and those who seek forgiveness should be ready to be called to accountability." 

Without mentioning Mrs Arroyo by name, he said: "Forgiveness does not eliminate the need for justice, nor should it block the search for truth." 

Series of scandals 

Mrs Arroyo, who has made the fight against corruption a key pledge of her presidency, is trying to win back public trust. 

Her admission that she called an election official came after the opposition released an audio tape in which a woman who sounded like the president could be heard speaking with a senior election commissioner. 

While her actions were not illegal, they are likely to be viewed by many Filipinos as unethical conduct. 

The president's husband, Mike Arroyo, has also been accused of scandal, along with their son and Mrs Arroyo's brother-in-law. 

Opposition lawmakers have accused them of taking bribes from illegal gambling syndicates - charges they deny. 

Mike Arroyo has now left the Philippines to live in Hong Kong, in a move analysts say is an attempt to silence the president's critics. 

The Philippine Agriculture Minister Arthur Yap - a close aide to Mrs Arroyo - resigned on Thursday to contest tax evasion charges, which is again being seen as a move to distance the president from any resulting scandal.

01/07/2005

Bron : BBC News

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