MANILA, June 17, 2005
(STAR) (AFP) - President Gloria Arroyo said Thursday she would not testify at a congressional hearing into allegations she stole last year's elections, accusing the opposition of trying to sabotage the economy. The House of Representatives had asked Arroyo whether she wanted to take the stand at a planned public hearing next week intended to probe the authenticity of illegally tapped telephone conversations released by the opposition. In the recording, Arroyo allegedly asked a senior election official to make sure she came out on top in the May 2004 presidential vote. Election officials later declared her the winner over movie star challenger Fernando Poe.

Arroyo spokesman Ignacio Bunye said that the president would not attend the public hearing.

"We respect the investigation initiated by our lawmakers, but to insist on the president's response relative to this dubious audiotape is inappropriate as far as we are concerned," Bunye said in a statement.

"The real issues are, first, whether the president cheated in the last election, which she did not, and second, whether a destabilization plot exists and it does exist."

In a speech at a United Nations ceremony here, Arroyo threw the light instead onto her critics.

"For four long years the agents of destabilization have been trying to take down the economic edifice we have been building, but thank God to no avail," she said.

"For four long years I have taken personal abuse in the hope that reconciliation will bring about national harmony. But now they will try again and they are going too far because this is their now or never."

The government has already filed criminal charges of inciting sedition against a retired justice department investigator who said he was the source of the audiotape. Prior to the scheduled hearings on the audiotapes, the Senate also held public hearings aired on national television. In them, a number of self-confessed operators of an illegal numbers game testified that they paid protection money to Arroyo's husband as well as to her son and her brother-in-law, both of them legislators. Arroyo, who survived a military mutiny two years ago, said her opponents "want to take advantage of the unpopularity I had to suffer in carrying out the difficult phase one of our economic reforms."

Her public approval ratings dived to a record low of 26 percent in an independent national survey carried out last month as she shepherded through Congress a set of unpopular tax measures designed to widen the country's narrow tax base and avert a possible debt default.

Some Cabinet members want GMA to make statement on scandals: official 

MANILA (AP) - Some members of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's Cabinet believe she should speak up on scandals rocking her administration instead of ignoring them, an official said Thursday.

"The whole Cabinet is solidly behind her, but some want her to address these issues personally and make an immediate public statement," a senior government official told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

Accusations that Arroyo's family pocketed huge illegal gambling payoffs, and last week's emergence of an audio recording in which the president allegedly discussed a plan to rig the May 2004 election, have triggered a political storm and fresh coup rumors.

Arroyo has remained silent on both accusations, which are the subjects of congressional investigations. The government says the allegations are part of an opposition plot to destabilize Arroyo's year-old administration.

Her spokesman, Ignacio Bunye, reiterated that Arroyo will not publicly say if it is really her voice in the recording, said to be from an illegal wiretap conducted by military agents. Bunye says the tapes were doctored.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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