Philippines' Arroyo pleads not guilty to poll rigging



Philippines` Arroyo pleads not guilty to poll rigging 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