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Arroyo Lets Opposition to Campaign

May 10, 2001

MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo allowed two opposition Senate candidates accused of plotting a coup to come out of hiding on Thursday and campaign without threat of arrest.

The move permits Sen. Gregorio Honasan, seeking re-election, and former national police chief Panfilo Lacson to join their political party’s final campaign ahead of Monday’s congressional and local elections.

The government has accused Honasan and Lacson _ along with several other associates of ousted President Joseph Estrada _ of orchestrating a rebellion to topple Arroyo. Six days of opposition protests ended with a riot on May 1 that left six dead and more than 100 injured.

Arroyo agreed Thursday to grant ``safety conduct passes″ for the two, at the request Agapito Aquino, a spokesman for the opposition coalition.

``I hope we can campaign on a more level playing field,″ Aquino said.

Interior Secretary Jose Lina, who has jurisdiction over the national police, told Aquino there were no pending warrants for the arrests of Lacson and Honasan. Police have said they were preparing to file charges against the two in connection with the failed power grab.

Arroyo met with opposition politicians, police, military and elections officials at the presidential palace Thursday to discuss final preparations and to call for an honest, orderly and peaceful vote.

After the meeting, representatives of political parties signed an accord committing themselves to work against electoral violence and fraud.

Arroyo said she was saddened by a series of election-related killings, but welcomed police and military efforts to do ``what is humanly possible to uphold the law and temper the heat of the political campaign.″

Arroyo, the former vice president, was swept to power Jan. 20 after Estrada was ousted amid huge protests over corruption allegations. Estrada was later indicted on charges of plundering the country’s economy, and was jailed on April 25.

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