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Arroyo Apologizes for Conversation with Election Officials

  • Heda Bayron

Philippine President Gloria Arroyo broke her silence on allegations she cheated in last year's closely contested presidential election. Mrs. Arroyo apologized to the nation, but said she was guilty only of a lapse in judgment.

In a televised address, Philippine President Gloria Arroyo admitted she telephoned a senior election official, to ask about her votes, during the counting of ballots in last year's presidential election.

That conversation was secretly recorded, allegedly by military intelligence, and has been widely distributed in the Philippines. Mrs. Arroyo now admits the voice on the recording was hers, but denies the call was intended to influence the election result.

She says she regrets making that call.

"I recognize that making any such call was a lapse of judgment. I am sorry," she said.

Mrs. Arroyo defeated her closest rival, Fernando Poe Junior, by a million votes in the ballot.

She said the outcome of the election was already clear when she made the call, and that she did it to protect her votes.

Cheating is common in Philippine elections, but Mrs. Arroyo noted that several international election observers had judged this ballot free and fair.

The recording, which emerged in public earlier this month, has sparked demonstrations and calls for Mrs. Arroyo to step down and call a new election. For weeks she refused to discuss the issue.

Earlier Monday, a lawyer closely identified with the opposition filed an impeachment complaint against Mrs. Arroyo. It is not clear whether Congress will pursue an impeachment, given her party's majority in both houses.

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