Philippines` Arroyo pleads not guilty to poll rigging

Last Updated: Thursday, February 23, 2012 - 21:45

Former Philippine President Gloria
Arroyo on Thursday pleaded not guilty to rigging the 2007 senatorial
elections.
64-year-old Arroyo, who appeared in the Manila court for
the first time since being arrested and charged in November
last year, pleaded "Not guilty" to rigging senatorial
elections in 2007, ABS-CBN television report said.

Pre-trial was set for April 19 and Arroyo is not required
to attend the pre-trial, her counsel said.

Arroyo, who is now a congresswoman after winning a
parliamentary seat in the 2010 elections, faces life in jail
if convicted of conspiring with Andal Ampatuan, a political
warlord, to rig the senatorial election.

The former president has denied any wrongdoing and
insists her successor and current President Benigno Aquino
III, is waging a vendetta against her.

Aquino, who won a landslide election victory in 2010 on a
pledge to eradicate corruption in Philippine, has vowed to
prosecuted his predecessor in alleged corruption cases during
her long rule from 2001 to 2010.

The vote-rigging case is the first of many charges Aquino
has promised to file against his predecessor, whom he has
accused of many corrupt acts.

Arroyo is accused of having conspired with then
Maguindanao governor so that one of her allies won the final
position available in the nation`s Senate.

In December 2011 she was charged with a second criminal
case alleging kickbacks in a USD 330-million telecom deal with
a Chinese firm.

In a statement, the former President said she willingly
submitted herself to the process to clear her name.

"Despite the continuous and massive vilification campaign
against me and my family, I have always said that I will
dispute all charges in the proper forum," she said.

Arroyo said she was submitting herself "to this process
not only to clear my name but also as part of my commitment to
respect and abide by the rules and orders of our courts."

Meanwhile, an official statement said Arroyo`s
arraignment today "brings us one step closer toward attaining
closure to the many controversies that have hounded our
country during the previous administration."

Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said: "It is our
goal to give her a day in court under a fair and impartial
system of justice. At this time of reckoning, it is incumbent
upon all of us to remain vigilant and observe this process as
it unfolds."

The lower house of the Philippines Parliament is
currently impeaching the Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato
Corona on charges of corruption and protecting the
ex-president.

PTI



First Published: Thursday, February 23, 2012 - 21:31

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