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Philippine police arrest former top poll official


MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Police arrested the Philippines’ former elections chairman Tuesday on charges he aided the vote fraud allegedly ordered by former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Former Elections Chairman Benjamin Abalos surrendered to a Manila regional trial court in suburban Pasay city and was placed under arrest, police Supt. Samuel Turla said. He will be held in a police detention facility, unlike Arroyo, who is under arrest in a government hospital.

Police took his fingerprints and mugshots before detaining Abalos at a regional police headquarters in the capital, Turla said.

Abalos said he surrendered to underscore his innocence to charges that he played a role in rigging 2007 senatorial elections to ensure the victory of Arroyo’s candidates in a Muslim autonomous region then governed by her political ally.

President Benigno Aquino III succeeded Arroyo last year after a landslide election victory due in part to his promise to fight corruption and crushing poverty. He has blamed Arroyo for a decade of scandals that eroded public trust in government and held back foreign investment.

Arroyo, 64, has denied any wrongdoing and accused her successor of using "black propaganda" to damage her image. She was arrested last month at a private hospital and later was moved to a public veterans’ hospital amid calls for her to be treated like other crime suspects.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, who arrived in Manila Tuesday for talks with Aquino and his counterpart, Albert del Rosario, said that by strongly dealing with past cases of corruption, countries like the Philippines would discourage future cases of graft.

"You can only deter future possible acts of corruption if you’re seen to be robust in dealing with the past," Natalegawa said in a news conference, adding he was glad that the Philippines, like his country, was taking steps to root out graft.

On Monday, Aquino’s allies in the House of Representatives impeached Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona on eight complaints of alleged corruption and that court he led improperly favored Arroyo. She appointed him chief justice shortly before her presidential term ended last year.

Corona vowed to fight back. Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said Corona is likely to face trial there in January after Congress returns from a monthlong Christmas break.

Aquino thanked lawmakers Tuesday for impeaching Corona.

"We are now going through a process to stop the continued destruction by a wayward magistrate of the sacred institution that is the Supreme Court," Aquino said.

But Supreme Court spokesman Midas Marquez called Corona’s impeachment "an assault on all the rights, power and privilege of the entire judiciary," which he said was being "forced to surrender its constitutionally mandated powers and functions to the whim and caprice of political machinations."


Associated Press writers Teresa Cerojano and Oliver Teves contributed to this report.

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