Ex-ally accuses Arroyo of bribing lawmakers
By JIM GOMEZ,Associated Press Writer AP - 18 minutes ago
MANILA, Philippines - A former ally of the Philippine president who now backs the opposition's tenacious attempts to oust her claimed Monday that lawmakers were bribed to block last year's impeachment bid.
Former House of Representatives Speaker Jose de Venecia made his comments before a congressional committee considering an impeachment complaint against President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo for alleged corruption, abuse of power and constitutional violations.
Although the impeachment is widely expected to be shot down _ just like three others in recent years _ de Venecia's tirade could add to political tensions involving economic difficulties, fresh coup rumors and the dominant Roman Catholic Church's criticism of Arroyo's administration on issues including corruption.
De Venecia told the nationally televised hearing that more than 100 lawmakers received 500,000 pesos ($10,200) each during a meeting Arroyo called at the presidential palace last year to secure their loyalty as the opposition was preparing an impeachment complaint.
De Venecia said he did not attend the meeting but that Arroyo's aides later brought a bag containing the money to his office. He said he was willing to turn it over as evidence to the House committee.
Arroyo treated the lawmakers like they were "commodities for sale," de Venecia said, adding the president spent a fortune in "payolas and bribe money."
Presidential spokesman Anthony Golez said Arroyo has never bribed an official.
The constitution allows for only one impeachment proceeding a year, and de Venecia said the president asked him to endorse a weak impeachment bid last year in the hope of preventing the introduction of a stronger one being prepared by the opposition.
"She asked me three or four times and I answered three or four times I will not," he said. Arroyo's dominant allies in the House eventually threw out the complaint and later voted to remove de Venecia.
"We recognize the congressman's sour-graping," Golez said. "We can see that he is still hurting over his ouster as House speaker."
Arroyo has survived four coup attempts and three impeachment bids since she came to power in 2001.
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