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Closest Aide to Aquino Quits Cabinet : Arroyo's Ouster Was Sought by Military, Business Executives

September 17, 1987|Associated Press

MANILA — President Corazon Aquino announced today that her closest adviser, Executive Secretary Joker Arroyo, is leaving the Cabinet but said the government would "hold fast" to ideals he represents.

Arroyo's removal was long demanded by business executives and military groups, including one that led a bloody aborted coup on Aug. 28. The military said Arroyo was sympathetic to the communist rebels, a charge he denied.

Aquino's announcement came after she met with Gaston Sigur, U.S. assistant secretary of state for East Asia and Pacific affairs. He gave her a letter from President Reagan reaffirming U.S. support of her government.

Aquino called Arroyo's departure "our loss and the nation's." The 61-year-old human rights lawyer was widely believed to be the second most influential figure in the administration after Aquino.

Accused of Incompetence

Aquino said Arroyo agreed to leave the government Wednesday night, believing his departure "would bring peace and quiet" to her administration. Business, military and other groups accused Arroyo of incompetence.

Today, the president recalled Arroyo's struggle for human rights during the Marcos era, including his legal defense of her imprisoned husband, opposition leader Benigno S. Aquino Jr., who was assassinated four years ago when he returned from exile in the United States.

"When integrity was unpopular and unsafe, Arroyo stood by my husband and by the cross of democracy," she said. "Countless men and women owed their rescue from torture and unjust imprisonment to his brave and tireless efforts to give them what protection he could from the laws at that time."

Arroyo resigned along with the rest of the 25-member Cabinet on Sept. 9, but it had been expected that many officials would be renamed to their posts.

Allows for Reorganization

Officials said the Cabinet resignations were aimed at allowing Aquino to reorganize her government following the coup attempt, which plunged the 18-month-old administration into its gravest political crisis.

Presidential spokesman Teodoro Benigno told reporters he believed that the Cabinet revamp is complete and that Aquino does not plan to accept any other resignations.

Meanwhile, Chief of Staff Gen. Fidel Ramos said Philippine authorities were looking into possible foreign involvement in the military mutiny. U.S. authorities have denied any role.

Ramos, whose removal had also been demanded by mutineers, said in a television interview that the military was investigating the presence of "some foreign personnel" near armed forces headquarters during the coup attempt.

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