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Philippines president creates 'truth commission' to probe rights abuses

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.

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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