June 27, 2005

Arroyo says her voice on tape, denies rigging poll

MANILA (Reuters) - Philippine President Gloria MacapagalArroyo, saying it was her voice in recordings that have sparkedcalls for her to quit, apologized on Monday for a lapse injudgment but insisted she did not sway last year's election.

The opposition, which also accuses members of Arroyo'sfamily of taking kickbacks of illegal gambling, has seized onthe recordings of conversations with a senior election officialas proof she cheated her way to a fresh term in May 2004.

"I was anxious to protect my votes and during that time hadconversations with many people, including a Comelec (commissionon elections) official. My intent was not to influence theoutcome of the election and it did not," she said in atelevised speech, breaking three weeks of silence over therecordings.

"I recognize that making any such call was a lapse injudgment. I am sorry. I also regret taking so long to speakbefore you on this matter."

There is no law to stop candidates from talking to electionofficials. But the opposition says the recordings, which seemto show Arroyo calling on election commissioner VirgilioGarcillano for a bigger margin of victory, broke the ethicallimits.

Arroyo's spokesman had previously said the recordings hadbeen doctored.

Nothing has been proven against Arroyo or her family, withthe government saying the accusations are part of a plot toundermine and oust her. But the political noise has rattledfinancial markets over fears for Arroyo's fiscal reform agenda.