MANILA, June 16, 2005
(STAR) (AP) - President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo refuses to respond to opposition allegations that she rigged last year's election, her spokesman said Wednesday, as the political crisis sparked by mysterious wiretaps deepened.

Arroyo has dismissed the election intrigue as part of an opposition plot to oust her, but refused to address the origins of wiretapped recordings in which she is allegedly heard talking to an election official about ensuring a 1-million-vote margin over her closest rival in the bitterly contested May 2004 vote.

The government said the tapes were obtained illegally and had been doctored.

Arroyo's spokesman Ignacio Bunye said Wednesday the president "will not dignify" the opposition allegations "because in the view of the president, we must uphold the rule of law. These tapes are clearly just being used for political propaganda."

"The president will not be provoked into commenting on the authenticity of materials, which her accusers themselves have admitted to be illegally derived," Bunye said.

The wiretaps are shrouded in mystery.

A military intelligence officer implicated in the wiretapping was taken into military custody Monday but denied involvement in the scandal.

Sgt. Vidal Doble claims unidentified people tried to force him to state publicly that the tapes came from the military intelligence agency. He said the group behind the recordings wants to oust Arroyo and set up a revolutionary government in which he was offered a post.

Meanwhile, the alleged wiretaps whistleblower has gone into hiding after being asked to leave a Roman Catholic seminary where he had sought shelter. Samuel Ong, the dismissed deputy of the justice department's investigation agency, told reporters last week that the tapes were given to him by military intelligence.

The National Bureau of Investigation on Wednesday filed sedition charges against Ong for calling on Arroyo to step down.

The House of Representatives met Wednesday to debate rules for a hearing into the alleged wiretaps as Arroyo came under increasing pressure to explain the allegations.

"The audiotape in this wiretapping case is like a corpse with a bullet wound discovered in the residence of a public official when a team of policemen barged in without a search warrant," said Rep. Roilo Golez, Arroyo's former national security adviser.

"The president can say that she does not wish to comment on an illegally obtained wiretap. From the legal point of view, that may be correct. But since the voice sounds like her voice ... I believe that she must now make a statement on this and level with the people."

Former President Fidel Ramos also joined the chorus of politicians urging Arroyo to address the issue, but said the opposition lacked military and public support for another "people power" revolt like those which ousted late dictator Ferdinand Marcos in 1986 and former President Joseph Estrada in 2001.

GMA to visit Hong Kong despite political storm 06/15 4:33:17 PM

MANILA (AFP) - President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will visit Hong Kong to promote investment in the Philippines and to show that the country still has promise despite opposition moves to unseat her, officials said Wednesday.

Arroyo will depart early on June 20 and will return the same day after meeting senior business leaders in Hong Kong to discuss with them her economic reform program, presidential spokesmen Ignacio Bunye said.

"The message is that things are okay in the Philippines," said Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita.

"There is still a good climate for investments."

Opposition legislators have attacked Arroyo in recent weeks, accusing her of cheating in presidential elections last year and charging that her family is involved in illegal gambling.

Arroyo will attend a lunch hosted by businessman Victor Fung and will meet Tony Kwok, a former senior graft-buster in Hong Kong who has been named as Arroyo's chief adviser on anti-corruption efforts.

Kwok has begun a European-funded project to fight corruption in 16 key government offices in the Philippines.

Similar investment promotion trips were being planned for Singapore and Tokyo, Bunye said.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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