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Arroyo Ally Zubiri Quits Senate Over Poll Fraud Allegations

Aug. 3 (Bloomberg) -- Philippine Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri, an ally of former President Gloria Arroyo, resigned amid allegations the vote was rigged to ensure his victory in 2007 elections.

“I did not cheat. I did not ask anyone to cheat for me,” Zubiri said in Manila today.

ABS-CBN News reported on July 12 that suspended Maguindanao Governor Zaldy Ampatuan, who is on trial for his alleged role in a 2009 massacre of 57 people, accused Arroyo and her husband Jose Miguel of poll fraud in his province in 2007 that allowed Zubiri to win the last Senate post. An electoral protest against Zubiri filed by losing candidate Aquilino Pimentel is now pending before a tribunal.

“My interpretation is that Zubiri is feeling the heat,” said Benito Lim, a political science professor at Ateneo de Manila University. “He resigned so he and his family won’t be pressured to answer questions on the cheating issue.”

Lim said that while most of the people believe there was cheating during Arroyo’s time, “the burden now lies on this administration to produce the evidence and go to court, instead of resorting to trial by publicity.”

Zubiri’s decision “represents a way forward to start healing the wounds of the past,” President Benigno Aquino’s spokesman Edwin Lacierda said in an emailed statement. “We call on Mr. Zubiri to further demonstrate his willingness to help restore the dignity of our electoral process.”

President Arroyo in August 2006 won an impeachment vote in Congress on several allegations including cheating in the 2004 election where she defeated actor Ferdinand Poe Jr. Arroyo denied the accusations.

Ampatuan and is family are accused of killing members of a rival clan and 31 journalists who were traveling in a convoy to register to compete in elections.

To contact the reporter on this story: Cecilia Yap in Manila at cyap19@bloomberg.net; Joel Guinto at jguinto1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peter Hirschberg at phirschberg@bloomberg.net; Rebecca Evans at revans6@bloomberg.net

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