Filipino President was 'recorded fixing election'

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The Independent Online

The President of the Philippines Gloria Macapagal Arroyo faces a growing crisis over allegations of fixing last year's election result.

The President of the Philippines Gloria Macapagal Arroyo faces a growing crisis over allegations of fixing last year's election result.

A local television network claims to have an audio tape of a conversation between Mrs Arroyo and the election commissioner, Victoriano Garcellano, during the counting, in which she appears to ask leading questions over the progress of the account.

The government has denied the authenticity of the recording, saying that it was doctored. The opposition has consistently accused President Arroyo of cheating her way to a narrow election victory last May.

"The latest plot, by far the most devious and desperate, involves the illegal bugging of a conversation and the subsequent electronic doctoring, alteration, and revision of that conversation so as to introduce elements that were not really there," Mrs Arroyo's spokesman, Ignacio Bunye, said in a statement.

In the recording, Mrs Arroyo asks the official whether her overall lead could fall to below 1 million votes. The official says that although her lead had fallen to about 900,000, votes from several towns had yet to be counted. "We will do our best," he says.

The final election count by last June gave Mrs Arroyo a winning margin of just more than 1 million votes over her rival Fernando Poe Jr, a movie star who died later in 2004.

Bunye said the man talking with the President on the audio tape was not an election agency official but a southern political leader. He said the tape was edited from a master tape that recorded 12 conversations between Mrs Arroyo and the political leader from 31 May to 29 June last year.

Analysts say cheating by all sides is a common fixture of Philippine elections, with incumbents having the advantage of state machinery and financing.

They say the steady drumbeat of fraud allegations against Mrs Arroyo could help the opposition undermine her presidency and turn the public against her. Her ratings slumped to a record low amid allegations her family took illegal gambling payoffs.

A senate inquiry into the illegal numbers game, known as "jueteng" heard testimony from a "fixer" yesterday who said it was well known that Mrs Arroyo's husband had been taking gambling payoffs in Bicol province, south-east of the capital, Manila.

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