Arroyo allies dominate Philippine lower house polls

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MANILA, May 22 (Reuters) Political allies of Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo have won more than two-thirds of seats in elections for the lower house of Congress, an official of the ruling Lakas party said today.

There is no complete, national tally yet from local and congressional polling on May 14 but pro-administration parties say they have won 190 of 200 district seats in the 275-member House of Representatives.

Raymundo Roquero, executive director of the Lakas party, said they were on track to sweep the elections in the lower house with pro-administration candidates ahead in the remaining 16 areas where votes were still being counted.

''Our candidates and those from our coalition partners did not only retain their seats, we even won some more,'' he said.

The pro-government side's expected success will insulate Arroyo from a third impeachment motion during the rest of her final term, which runs out in 2010. She has failed to shake allegations she cheated in the 2004 presidential poll.

Yesterday, Franklin Drilon, a leader of the main opposition party, conceded the president's critics lacked the numbers to remove her through an impeachment vote, which requires the support of one third of the lower house.

''Based on our own estimate, we would only get 15 seats in Congress,'' said an official of the Liberal Party allied with Drilon, adding Arroyo's foes could win about 30-40 seats in Congress.

He said the Liberal Party would announce results at the local level by the end of the week, waiting for controversies in some areas to clear up.

The Philippines' two main parties base their performances on official returns from the Commission on Elections (Comelec). Comelec and NAMFREL, the independent poll watchdog, do not collate the figures for the lower house on a national basis.

The propect of less political turmoil has driven the stock market to all-time highs and pushed the peso past the psychological 46 to the dollar level today.

Arroyo's opponents look set to regain their majority in the Senate with unofficial tallies showing eight opponents dominating 12 slots with the remaining four divided between two independents and two pro-government candidates.

The Senate race was the only national contest and is a slap in the face for Arroyo, who remains deeply unpopular and only survived two impeachment attempts in 2005 and 2006 due to her allies' overwhelming majority in the lower house.

Allegations of vote-manipulation have gathered pace during the fraud-prone manual count and fresh polls will be held in parts of the south within the month after people failed to cast their votes due to threats against election officers.

About 140 people have been killed in shootouts, ambushes and grenade and arson attacks since campaigning began in January.

Election officials say about 90 percent of votes have been counted for the House of Representatives but Comelec has said it will take up to a week to validate results.

But some of the pro-government winners in the lower house voted to impeach Arroyo in 2005 and 2006 and their support for the administration cannot be guaranteed.

Analysts have said the administration's superior grassroots machinery guarantees it victory at the local level, where the opposition failed to run candidates in many districts.


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