Philippines to probe reports of poll bribes to troops

MANILA Mon May 3, 2010 2:20pm IST

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MANILA (Reuters) - The Philippine military has launched an inquiry into reports some soldiers had been offered bribes by politicians to rig results of presidential elections next week, the army chief said on Monday.

General Delfin Bangit also vowed to impose tough sanctions against soldiers found to have engaged in partisan political activities, like openly endorsing any candidate for national and local positions.

"We're trying to find out if some of our soldiers had been offered bribes by any candidate or political party to influence election results," Bangit told reporters at the main army base in Manila, where he gathered about 3,000 troops.

Last week, Defence Secretary Norberto Gonzales told a meeting there would be cheating in the presidential elections on May 10 because some candidates had offered money to election officials and soldiers.

Gonzales' statement came days after opposition lawmaker Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino told reporters he had met some disgruntled generals to discuss potential scenarios if the elections on May 10 fail due to violence and massive fraud.

Bangit said he was not personally aware of attempts by some politicians to bribe soldiers to rig elections in their favour. Nonetheless, he asked senior army commanders to find out if any soldier had been engaged in partisan political activities.

"Definitely, we'll not allow cheating to happen," Bangit said. "We're putting at stake our reputation and careers to make sure we'll have a credible and free elections."

In 2004, there were allegations that some generals helped in the manipulation of votes in the southern Philippines to favour President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Arroyo faced four impeachment motions on charges of corruption and poll fraud but her allies in the lower house of Congress defeated all of them.

The military stayed loyal to her to defeat three attempts by rogue soldiers to seize power.

(Reporting by Manny Mogato; Edited by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

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