updated 6/29/2005 10:41:59 PM ET 2005-06-30T02:41:59

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said Wednesday that her husband — tainted by claims of corruption — is leaving the Philippines to protect her credibility as she battles charges of rigging elections.

The announcement came two days after Arroyo broke her silence in the three-week-old ballot scandal, acknowledging in a televised speech that she talked to an election official about protecting a million-vote victory margin in May 2004 presidential polls. But while she apologized for the lapse, she denied rigging the polls and said she won’t resign.

“My husband has volunteered to go abroad ... to remove himself from any situation which will cast doubts on my presidency,” Arroyo told a business forum. She complained that he has been an object of ridicule by “political enemies who have been trying to distract me from fulfilling my reform agenda.” She did not say where he would go.

Wednesday’s move appeared designed to help Arroyo win back public trust shaken by the scandal and allegations that her relatives took kickbacks from illegal gambling as well as to placate investors worried about instability.

Stability, investment hang in balance
Cora Guidote, presidential consultant on investment relations, said political stability was crucial to attract overseas investment. But that currently investors were “holding back.”

Arroyo’s husband Mike, a lawyer from a prominent family, has been portrayed as an influence-peddler, working behind the scenes under the president’s protection.

While no firm evidence has emerged, he has been accused — along with Arroyo’s son and brother-in-law, both members of the House of Representatives — of taking kickbacks from operators of jueteng, a popular illegal numbers game. The allegations are the subject of a Senate inquiry.

Husband's statement
“I love my wife very much,” Mike Arroyo said in a statement. “It has been difficult for me to see her suffer through the negative press that I have received.”

The opposition said the Arroyos' announcement that her husband would leave the Philippines was a way of trying to shift the focus away from allegations of election fraud.

“The intention here is to placate or appease some of her own supporters because it does not really address the issues confronting us, and this is the ability of the president to lead amid allegations about fraud in the elections,” House minority leader Rep. Francis Escudero told DZBB radio.

Arroyo first assumed the presidency in January 2001 when she was vice president to Joseph Estrada, who was ousted in massive street protests over allegations of corruption. She then won her own six-term term last year.

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