MANILA,  May 31, 2004
By Marichu Villanueva  -  President Arroyo accused some political opposition leaders yesterday of spreading rumors that she allegedly offered "huge sums" of money to pay off the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) religious sect to support her candidacy in the last elections.

"I am deeply dismayed by insidious rumors that the Iglesia ni Cristo received a huge sum of money for supporting my candidacy," Mrs. Arroyo said.

The President took up the cudgels of defending the INC from what she termed "insidious rumors" spread by the political opposition she did not identify.

"These rumors can only be concocted by depraved and desperate souls that cannot accept rejection or defeat," she said.

Mrs. Arroyo thanked anew the INC for giving its support for her bid for a full six-year term.

"I thank the INC leaders and members for their support and I would never taint their sincerity by offering money for it," she said.

Mrs. Arroyo said the INC support was extended to her and running mate Sen. Noli de Castro "in view of shared values and principles, particularly moral leadership and good governance."

She said the INC has been supporting her political bid since she first ran for the Senate in 1992 and was re-elected in 1995.

The Chief Executive said the INC also supported her candidacy for vice president during the 1998 elections.

After three years, Mrs. Arroyo took over from President Joseph Estrada who was unseated in a popular revolt on charges of massive corruption in January 2001.

Mrs. Arroyo called on her critics to spare the INC in giving its support to her.

"I ask my detractors to spare the INC from partisan politics. Those who are hurt by political loss must not take it against the INC or its innocent flock," she said.

Two days after the elections, Mrs. Arroyo acknowledged the support from the INC along with another religious group, the El Shaddai movement led by Bro. Mike Velarde.

She admitted seeking the support of the religious groups in her bid to seek a full six-year mandate.

In an open letter, President Arroyo formally thanked all INC leaders and members for their support during the May 10 elections.

The letter was read during the regular Thursday prayer service in all INC chapels across the country last May 27.

"We will continue to extend the hand of reconciliation even to our detractors who are willing to share the formidable tasks ahead in upholding the interest and welfare of the people," Mrs. Arroyo said.

"But I wish that raw, personalistic attacks will stop to give way to more conducive atmosphere for national unity," she said.

Mrs. Arroyo first extended her offer of reconciliation offering the opposition to join her "government of national unity" even before the May 10 elections. She also vowed to pursue these plans as part of her campaign pledges to the Filipino electorate.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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