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Philippines president to create 'truth commission' to probe rights abuses

Newly-inaugurated Philippines President Benigno Aquino [campaign website, in Tagalog; BBC profile] announced Tuesday that his administration will set up a "truth commission" to investigate allegations that the outgoing administration engaged in corruption and rights violations. The commission plans to look into accusations [AFP report] 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 said that other agencies will assist the commission [Reuters report] in its investigation, including the country's Department of Justice [official website]. Aquino's announcement prompted a call for the president to issue an executive order [ABS-CBN report] to make the commission's creation official and clear up any ambiguity regarding the commission's authority. Aquino appointed former Supreme Court [official website] chief justice Hilario Davide [UN profile] to head the commission.

Arroyo was elected to the lower house of parliament after receiving permission to run for the seat [JURIST report] in April 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.

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