Philippines' Arroyo sacrifices her top official to recover public trust

Political crisis in the Philippines has affected the government’s top officials. President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's scramble to recover public trust after allegations that she rigged last year's election gained steam Thursday when her Cabinet shed a top official facing tax-evasion charges.

Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap said he was stepping down to clear his name and spare the president additional damage, as the opposition urged her to resign following her admission that she discussed the vote count in the May 2004 presidential polls with a top election official, reports AP.

On Monday Arroyo apologized for talking with an election official about her hopes for a million-vote margin in last year's ballot, but said she did nothing wrong and declined to resign.

Reuters called Yap’s resignation “the start of a cabinet revamp” in Arroyo’s effort to heal damage from election cheating and graft allegations. Local media said Arroyo, facing possibly the worst crisis of her four-year presidency, would announce on Friday a purge of cabinet ministers seen as close to her husband, including Yap. The president's spokesman Ignacio Bunye, himself the subject of rumours he may resign, called the reports of a cabinet reshuffle "disinformation,” said Reuters.

According to Philippines’ ABS CBN News, a close Arroyo’s ally said Thursday, that she planned major changes to her administration to heal damage from election cheating and graft allegations. As the media says, despite rallies against Arroyo on Thursday by a few thousand protesters, there have been no signs of imminent unrest and the President has not suffered any major defections by allies. The military has reaffirmed crucial support and three vital sectors - the middle class, business community and Catholic Church - have not joined opposition calls for her to step down.

Analysts cited by The Washington Post see little chance of Arroyo quitting, as it was with Jozeph Estrada in 2001, and say it will be very difficult for the opposition to impeach the president because of her majorities in both houses of Congress.

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