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Arroyo's Scandal-Tainted Husband to Leave Country

  • Heda Bayron

In the face of mounting pressure, Philippine President Gloria Arroyo says her scandal-tainted husband will leave the country to protect her presidency.

Beleaguered Philippine President Gloria Arroyo moved to placate the public and the opposition Wednesday by announcing her husband would leave the country, apparently in an effort to ease political pressure on her.

Mrs. Arroyo told a business forum in Manila that her family would make sacrifices to keep the nation's respect for her presidency.

"Today my family is once again called to sacrifice our personal happiness to allow me to serve best as president of our country," she said. "My husband has volunteered to go abroad, to remove himself from any situation which will cast doubts on my presidency. "

Jose Miguel Arroyo is accused of accepting pay-offs from operators of an illegal numbers game to help finance his wife's election campaign last year. Mrs. Arroyo's son and brother-in-law, both politicians, have also been implicated in the scandal. Congress has been holding hearings over the issue.

President Arroyo herself is facing mounting calls to resign over claims she cheated in last year's election, which she won by a narrow margin over actor-turned-opposition candidate, Fernando Poe Junior.

On Monday, a remorseful Mrs. Arroyo admitted calling a senior election official during the vote counting period but denied she intended to influence the result. The telephone conservation was illegally recorded and widely distributed in the country.

But for some, her apology was not enough. On Wednesday, key congressional ally and former national security advisor Roilo Golez resigned from Mrs. Arroyo's party and called on his former boss to step down.

"I thought there was a cover-up where they tried to deceive the people. Because of that my feelings is that she has lost a lot of credibility. Without that moral authority, it would be difficult for her to lead and govern the country," he said.

An impeachment complaint against the president filed earlier this week went one step ahead Wednesday after a lawmaker endorsed the complaint. A congressional committee will then deliberate its merit before it is placed for a vote. Political analysts say the there has to be massive defection from Mrs. Arroyo's party, which holds the majority in Congress, for an impeachment to succeed.

The opposition continued daily demonstrations in the capital, Manila. On Wednesday, the widow of Fernando Poe Junior, actress Susan Roces - who is now emerging as the spokeswoman of the opposition - lashed out against Mrs. Arroyo for lying to the public.

"The gravest thing that you [Arroyo] have done is that you have stolen the presidency, not once, but twice," she said.

Massive protests have ousted two presidents in the past 19 years, but political analysts say the current protests have yet to gain a significant following.