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24 July 2024

Philippine president revokes order that had impeded corruption probe

By Agencies

The Philippine president revoked a controversial order Wednesday that had blocked Cabinet members and other officials from testifying in a Senate probe into a corruption scandal battering her administration.


President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo made the decision after meeting with influential Roman Catholic bishops, who have condemned widespread graft in her government, presidential spokesman Ignacio Bunye said.


The clerics demanded last week that she lift Executive Order 464, which barred officials from testifying in the Senate probe without her permission, Bunye said.


The bishops, who played key roles in “people power” revolts that ousted two presidents, have refused to join widespread calls for Arroyo’s resignation. Instead they have asked her to take steps to combat the problem, including removing restrictions that were hampering the congressional corruption probes.


In a statement, Arroyo said she was revoking the order, meaning that officials could no longer invoke it “to excuse nonattendance from legislative inquiries.”


“The president, like anybody else, is after the truth. The president listens to the people,” Bunye said. “She believes that it’s in the best interest of everybody to heal our present conflict.”

It was not clear if senior officials attending congressional inquiries would continue to invoke “executive privilege” to skirt questions that could malign Arroyo.


Archbishop Angel Lagdameo, who heads the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, welcomed Arroyo’s decision. “We’re happy and grateful that our appeal has been heard by the chief executive,” Lagdameo said, but added it was only “a first step.”


Cabinet members have used Arroyo’s order to avoid testifying in a probe by the opposition-dominated Senate into a major telecommunications deal, endorsed by Arroyo, that was allegedly tainted by bribery.


Former consultants allege that Arroyo, her husband and the country’s elections chief - who has since quit - benefited from huge kickbacks linked to the aborted broadband contract with China’s ZTE Corp. Arroyo and the two have denied any wrongdoing. (AP)