Philippine government's top lawyer resigns

The Philippine government's top lawyer, who defended President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's declaration of a state of emergency last month, has resigned, officials said Wednesday.

Solicitor General Alfredo Benipayo declined to comment on the reasons for his resignation, but Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales said Benipayo told him he wanted to join the private sector.

"He said he wanted to go to private life and that's not an unusual reason," Gonzales told The Associated Press.

According to a letter published by the Philippine Star newspaper, Benipayo thanked Arroyo for the opportunity and said he was leaving on April 1, or as soon as his successor was appointed.

Benipayo was leading a legal team seeking to throw out seven petitions questioning Arroyo's weeklong emergency decree at the Supreme Court.

It wasn't clear when the court will issue a ruling, but there was speculation Arroyo may have been dissatisfied with Benipayo's performance.

Arroyo has said an alleged conspiracy by left-wing and right-wing groups that the government quelled last month would have destroyed democracy in the Philippines if it had triumphed. She imposed the state of emergency on Feb. 24 and withdrew it on March 3 amid strong protests from the opposition and civil libertarians.

At a hearing last week, Benipayo defended the declaration, known as Proclamation 1017, but acknowledged that its implementation may have been flawed. When asked by one of the justices if he was among those who drafted the decree, he said: "I had nothing to do with 1017," reports the AP.


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