( dpa ) - Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on Saturday extended the term of the country's armed forces chief, who was implicated in the alleged rigging of the 2004 presidential elections to ensure her victory.
Arroyo told reporters in Davos, Switzerland that she had extended the term of office of General Hermogenes Esperon for three months to ensure the continuity of the government's anti-communist insurgency campaign.
"There is a momentum in the campaign against the (communist) New People's Army, and we expect this to snowball in the next several months, so it is very difficult to suddenly change horses when there is a momentum we have to sustain," she said.
Arroyo also named retired Supreme Court justice Jose Melo to head the scandal-tainted Commission of Elections (COMELEC) in an apparent bid to redeem its tarnished image.
Melo, 67, replaced Benjamin Abalos, a very close ally of Arroyo, who resigned in late 2007 after he was accused of attempting to bribe senior economic officials to ensure that China's ZTE Corp bag a multi-million-dollar government broadband deal contract.
Prior to his appointment as COMELEC chairman, Melo led an independent commission that investigated into the extra-judicial killings of political activists in the Philippines.
General Esperon was supposed to retire on February 9 upon reaching the mandatory retirement age of 56.
Arroyo said incumbent army chief Lieutenant General Alexander Yano will replace Esperon as armed forces chief of staff on May 9.
Esperon's extension came amid fears that anti-government forces might make another attempt to unseat Arroyo during the celebrations of the February 1986 people-power revolution that ousted the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
Arroyo, who is perceived by a majority of Filipinos as the worst president the country ever had, has survived several coup attempts during her seven years in office, and her allies in Congress successfully blocked three impeachment bids against her.
The 60-year-old, US-trained economist prided herself in steering the country's economy to its fastest growth in almost 20 years, and she vowed to continue working to improve the lives of the country's impoverished millions.