Philippine government hit by another bribery scandal

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MANILA, Oct 9 (Reuters) Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo today faced another bribery scandal when an opposition lawmaker accused a leader of her party of offering money to support a weak impeachment motion against her.

In a privilege speech at the lower house of Congress, Crispin Beltran said he was approached twice on Friday by Francis Ver, a senior leader of Arroyo's Kampi party, and offered two million pesos (45,000 dollars) to endorse an impeachment motion against her.

''He was indeed resolute in seeking my support,'' said Beltran, a left-wing politician.

Beltran said the complaint could have the blessings of the administration since it appeared to be an attempt to pre-empt a substantial impeachment motion against Arroyo. Under law, there can only be one impeachment motion against the president in one year.

Beltran asked the lower house of Congress to investigate the bribery offer and the circumstance behind the latest impeachment case against Arroyo.

Ver, deputy secretary-general of Kampi, denied the accusations, saying he was at the lower house of Congress as part of his duties as an official of the party.

He said he did not know the lawyer who filed the impeachment complaint against the president.

Arroyo's spokesman, Ignacio Bunye, said the president would not be distracted by the impeachment complaint and allegations of bribery in Congress.

''We are disappointed, but not the least surprised, at this unsubstantiated allegation,'' he told reporters.

Another opposition lawmaker, Rufus Rodriguez, who served as a spokesman and lawyer for deposed president Joseph Estrada, said he was also approached by the same official of Arroyo's political party and offered money to support the impeachment motion.

Four other opposition lawmakers said they got similar offers.

Last week, Arroyo cancelled a 0 million telecoms deal with a Chinese firm after allegations of kickbacks to government officials surfaced in an inquiry by the senate.

Benjamin Abalos, the head of the Commission on Elections, resigned after he was named in the scandal.

Arroyo's husband, Jose Miguel, has also been named in the telecoms case and has been invited to a hearing at the senate on October 25.

REUTERS ARB KP1341

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