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March 7, 2008

President revokes controversial mandate

ArroyoPhilippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Wednesday revoked a controversial Executive Order barring top government officials from testifying in Congress hearings as a gesture to sincerely tackle government irregularities that has sparked strong public outcry.

"Executive officials may no longer invoke E.O. 464 to excuse non-attendance from legislative inquiries," the president was quoted as saying in a statement released by the presidential office.

The president abolished the controversial order for her "political survival", opposition senators were quoted as telling local television ABS-CBN News.

Issued by the Presidential Office in 2005, the E.O. 464 was designed to protect officials from perceived abuse of the congressional inquiries. However, the order has frequently been used by key witnesses to snub Congress hearings on controversial issues which might seriously weaken the administration.

Arroyo made the decision after a closed-door meeting with several Cabinet officials and representatives of an "influential religious group" including some senior Catholic bishops in Metro Manila, local television network GMA News said.

Arroyo has been under fire in recent weeks as her husband and several of her Cabinet ministers were implicated in an alleged bribe scandal of a government telecommunications project.

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