Philippines President Benigno Aquino [BBC profile] signed an executive order [text, PDF] Friday to set up a "truth commission" to investigate allegations that the outgoing administration engaged in corruption and rights violations. The commission will look into accusations that former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] and members of her administration rigged the 2004 presidential election, misused government funds and profited from government contracts. Aquino announced plans to create the commission [JURIST report] earlier this month, prompting a call for him to issue an executive order to make the commission official and clear up any ambiguity regarding its authority. Signing the executive order, Aquino said [statement], "[t]he process of bringing a necessary closure to the allegations of official wrongdoing and impunity has begun." The commission, set to finish its work by 2012, will have the power to recommend or file charges [AFP report]. Arroyo has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.
Arroyo was elected to the lower house of parliament in April after receiving permission to run for the seat [JURIST report] despite protests that her presidency gave her an unfair advantage. In March, Aquino and other presidential candidates criticized as "unjust" a Supreme Court ruling that allowed Arroyo to appoint a replacement for the retiring chief justice [JURIST report], who planned to step down a week after the May presidential elections. Arroyo declared martial law [JURIST report] in December for the first time in 23 years in the wake of a massacre in the Maguindanao province that left 57 dead. In February, prosecutors charged 197 people with murder [JURIST report] in connection with the massacre. A Manila trial court ordered the arrest of 189 more suspects [JURIST report] in March. Eleven policemen and militia members pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] to the charges in April.