Politics as usual in Manila after Congress blast

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MANILA, Nov 14 (Reuters) Philippine politicians went back to work today after a bomb attack on Congress killed three people and wounded 10 in the suspected assassination of a Muslim lawmaker.

Members of the lower house, where yesterday night's explosion tore the roof off a lobby, were discussing an impeachment complaint against President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo while in the Senate, over an hour's drive southwest of the lower house, senators opened an inquiry into allegations of cash handouts to the president's allies.

''The work must go on,'' said Matias Defensor, chair of the House of Representatives' Justice Committee, which is expected to junk the impeachment complaint against Arroyo, who has majority support in the House of Representatives.

The remains of Wahab Akbar, who represented the restive southern island of Basilan, arrived home for burial on Wednesday.

Police said Akbar, who had clashed with Muslim militants operating from Basilan, was the likely target of yesterday's blast, which also killed a driver and a congressional aide.

No one has claimed responsibility and the police are investigating whether the explosion was detonated by a mobile phone.

Although it was the first bomb attack on a central government building and comes less than a month after an explosion killed 11 people in an upscale Manila mall, investors shrugged off the blast.

''It is unnerving, that is true, but it does not affect the fundamental forces that drive the economy,'' said Luz Lorenzo, analyst with ATR-Kim Eng Securities in Manila.

''Sentiment may be affected temporarily, but if it is addressed properly then it should not do any permanent damage.'' The stock market climbed 2.19 per cent echoing a regional rise after Wall Street's rally while the peso, Asia's best performing currency this year, was quoted at 42.91 against the dollar, higher than yesterday's close.

FEAR Political murders are common in the Philippines as are small-scale bombings in the south, where there are long-running communist and Muslim insurgencies.

Nearly 140 people are believed to have been killed in congressional elections in May and a senior election official was shot dead in Manila last weekend.

Arroyo put Manila and provinces north and south of the capital under a state of alert and assured Filipinos the government would catch the bombers.

Manila's residents are still awaiting final confirmation of what triggered last month's explosion in the Glorietta mall.

The police have said a build-up of gases was the likely cause but the owners of the centre, Ayala Land, have disputed that.

Political noise has increased in recent months against Arroyo, who has already survived two impeachment attempts.

But analysts expect the former economist, who is facing renewed corruption allegations, will see out her final term, ending in 2010, due to a majority in the lower house, a growing economy and a lack of a viable replacement.


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