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Manila probes Arroyo vote ‘fraud’

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image Congresswoman Gloria Arroyo speaks during the opening of the 15th congress at the House of Representatives in Quezon City suburban Manila on July 25

The Philippine government said yesterday it would investigate fresh allegations that former leader Gloria Arroyo used the police to steal the 2004 presidential election.
The inquiry will look into claims by a senior police officer that he broke into parliament in 2005 to switch election documents stored there so that Arroyo’s victory would survive a recount, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said.
“We’ve always known that in each election there’s cheating, but the scale of it in 2004, based on the various bits and pieces that we’ve been getting from our sources... it’s really mind-boggling,” de Lima told reporters.
She said Arroyo’s win could not be overturned by a finding of fraud, but the evidence could be used to file criminal charges against those involved.
De Lima said the police officer would testify at the inquiry next week that he and a small group of other policemen were ordered by their superiors to swap legitimate election papers kept at parliament in Manila with fake ones.
The documents recorded the votes obtained by the presidential candidates per precinct.
At the time of the alleged parliamentary break-in, Arroyo was facing the prospect of a vote recount following allegations of cheating from her main rival, Fernando Poe.
De Lima said returns recording 1.2 million votes had allegedly been swapped, and Arroyo’s eventual winning margin was just over 1.1 million votes.
She said the policeman, Senior Superintendent Rafael Santiago, and four of his men who claimed to be involved had already presented their allegations to the justice department and requested state protection.
Arroyo survived two parliamentary impeachment efforts in 2005 in 2006, as well as a bloodless military revolt, over allegations of vote fraud.
She has consistently denied any illegal activities during her near-decade in power that ended in June last year, when she was required by constitutional term limits to step down.
Her successor, Benigno Aquino has said he will relentlessly pursue allegations of vote fraud and corruption against Arroyo, but his efforts have so far produced few results.
His attempt to launch a “Truth Commission” to probe alleged Arroyo misdeeds was blocked by the Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, Arroyo remains a member of parliament after winning a Lower House seat in last year’s elections.

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