Opponent accuses Philippine leader of impropriety
By JIM GOMEZ,Associated Press Writer AP - 21 minutes ago
MANILA, Philippines - A former key ally of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo accused her Sunday of committing "a major impropriety" for allegedly socializing with officials from a Chinese company that was seeking a contract with her government.
The House of Representatives is currently considering an impeachment complaint against Arroyo on allegations she accepted bribes before granting a $300 million national broadband contract to China's ZTE Corp. in 2007.
Arroyo has consistently denied any wrongdoing in the deal, and the House, which is dominated by her allies, is widely expected to soon dismiss the complaint. ZTE has denied offering bribe or huge commissions to any Philippine official.
But in a new twist, former House of Representatives Speaker Jose de Venecia said Sunday he was willing to testify in Congress to support the impeachment complaint. De Venecia has previously led the House of Representatives in blocking two opposition impeachment bids against Arroyo in recent years until their longtime alliance frayed.
De Venecia, still a member of the House, said Sunday that Arroyo invited him to join her on a trip to China in November 2006, and that he didn't know they would play golf and have lunch with ZTE officials at the Chinese telecommunications company's headquarters in Shenzhen, China.
"You know it's a main contender for the contract and here you are being invited to a golf game and having lunch with that company," De Venecia told The Associated Press by telephone.
Asked if he thought Arroyo violated any law or committed an impropriety, De Venecia said he was not sure if her action constituted a violation of any law but added she at least committed "a major impropriety."
It was the first time de Venecia has talked about his knowledge of alleged irregularity in the contract, which Arroyo canceled last year after bribery allegations were launched.
De Venecia fell out of favor with Arroyo after his son, a losing bidder, testified last year in Senate hearings into the bribery allegations.
Arroyo's husband, Mike Arroyo, was also implicated in the scandal, and he, too, has denied wrongdoing.
Arroyo's spokesman, Anthony Golez, said any allegation against the president "will not hold water" unless a court upholds it after scrutiny of evidence.
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