Philippine official, in standoff with police and army,
pushes election fraud allegation
By JIM GOMEZ | Associated Press
June 13, 2005
MANILA, Philippines (AP) - A dismissed Philippine
official on Monday declared he wouldn't let police
take him alive from a Roman Catholic seminary where he
has sought refuge after accusing President Gloria
Macapagal Arroyo of rigging last year's election.
The dramatic standoff heightened political tensions
that had started to ebb over the weekend when large
anti-government crowds failed to show up in support of
Samuel Ong, former deputy head of the Justice
Department's investigating agency.
Ong sought refuge in the Manila seminary after telling
a news conference Friday that he has wiretapped
recordings on which Arroyo purportedly talks to an
election official about ensuring a 1-million-vote
margin over her closest rival in May 2004. The
government claims the tapes are doctored. Ong had
called on the public and the church to protect him,
claiming he feared for his life and arrest.
Troops and riot police took positions outside the
seminary and at key access points to the capital to
keep out anti-government protesters from nearby
provinces amid what the government has called a
deliberate destabilization effort.
But there was no sign of deep military unrest or the
large crowds which gathered for peaceful "people
power" revolts that toppled dictator Ferdinand Marcos
in 1986 and President Joseph Estrada in 2001.
Ong pressed his allegations Monday and asked for
"I will not allow myself to be arrested alive," told
DZBB radio by phone. "I did not come all the way to
the house of God only to tell a lie. Believe me, the
one sitting in Malacanang (presidential palace) did
not win as president."
Lawmakers said they plan to open an investigation into
the alleged wiretaps this week.
Ong said a military intelligence agent who was
involved in wiretapping Arroyo, Sgt. Vidal Doble, has
also voluntarily sought refuge in the seminary. The
military alleged that Doble was being held against his
will and deployed troops and two armed personnel
carriers around the seminary walls Monday.
The election fraud allegations _ along with an ongoing
Senate probe of allegations that her family pocketed
illegal gambling payoffs _ have sent Arroyo's
popularity to its lowest levels since winning the
bitterly contested election.
She is also grappling with crushing poverty, a huge
budget deficit, high oil prices and allegations of
massive government corruption.
A tired-looking Arroyo appeared before a sparse
Independence Day crowd Sunday and pleaded for unity,
but warned she was prepared to use her power to
protect democracy and her reforms.
In a country often buffeted by political turmoil, many
analysts were unsure how the current storm would end.
"It's a political tele-series, I think," Professor
Segundo Romero of the state-run University of the
Philippines told ABS-CBN television. "People are
asking how it would end, when in fact we're just in
episode three of a maybe 15-episode thing."