Arroyo announces poll fraud probe

Philippine President Gloria Arroyo has announced the formation of a truth commission to investigate the charges of vote-rigging made against her. 

She has faced increasing pressure to quit since admitting in June that she phoned an election official during the count for the 2004 presidential poll. 

But Mrs Arroyo denies any wrong-doing, and has refused to stand down. 

In an open letter to senior Catholic bishops, she said the commission was needed to restore public trust. 

"On the matter of moral accountability... I have initiated the creation of a commission or similar body to look into the truth behind issues recently raised against me," Mrs Arroyo said, in a letter read on national television by her spokesman Ignacio Bunye.

A truth commission was one of the courses of action that the bishops - who have an influential role in the predominantly Roman Catholic country - had recently recommended. 

In a statement on 10 July, they said they would not support calls for her resignation, but they did urge her to examine her own conduct and not just ignore the issues raised. 

"On the matter of effective governance, I took to heart the admonition to discern deeply as to whether the erosion of trust is so severe as to be irreversible," Mrs Arroyo said. 

"I believe that... my decision to stay in my office is the correct one," she added. 

'Lapse of judgement' 

Ms Arroyo's problems stem from a taped phone conversation between a woman sounding like her and an election official, in which the woman asks about a lead of "1M". 

Critics said it was Mrs Arroyo on the tape, and that she was talking about one million votes, the size of her eventual victory in the 2004 election. 

In June Mrs Arroyo admitted phoning an election official, and apologised for her "lapse of judgement", but denied trying to rig the vote.

In her statement on Monday she said that issues were raised which "seem to give credence to the observation that various groups may be manipulating situations for their own agenda, perhaps with the aim of grabbing power". 

"I am hopeful that the process of searching for the truth will shed light on these disturbing matters," she added. 

In addition to the election controversy, the president also faces separate allegations that members of her family took pay-offs from illegal gambling syndicates. 

The poorly performing Philippine economy has not helped her popularity, nor have a series of key resignations from her Cabinet. 

In the last few months there have been a series of street demonstrations calling on her to quit. 

Protests have been powerful tools in Philippine politics in the past, ousting two previous presidents - Ferdinand Marcos in 1986 and Joseph Estrada in 2001. 

But that level of anger has not yet been apparent in the demonstrations against Mrs Arroyo. 

On Saturday about 120,000 of the president's supporters fought back, with a rally of their own.

19/07/2005

Bron : BBC News

Archief - Home