Arroyo launches probes against her husband

MANILA, Philippines, AP

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on Friday took the first step in initiating an investigation into allegations that her husband received bribes in exchange for the recall of her veto of a telecommunications franchise deal.

In her nationally televised weekly news conference, Arroyo said she has referred the allegations against her husband, lawyer Jose Miguel Arroyo, for investigation by Ombudsman Aniano Desierto, the chief government anti-corruption prosecutor.

The move came days after local media reported that her husband received about 50 million pesos (US$925,925) in bribes in exchange for working on rescinding a veto by Arroyo of a local telecommunications franchise.

“We will have to get to the bottom of things. No ifs, no buts,” she said, noting that her husband has denied the claims and has called for an investigation himself.

“The truth is that I vetoed the franchise, I did not recall the veto and the veto will remain. Nonetheless, we must be like Caesar’s wife and we must be above suspicion,” she said.

Arroyo said she decided against referring the case to the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission and opted for an investigation by the office of the ombudsman, a constitutionally independent body.

Opposition politicians said they also will call for a congressional investigation into the allegations, first made by a former Arroyo secretary who resigned over alleged corruption by her husband.

Arroyo said her husband is “looking forward to facing his accusers in court” upon his return from a trip to the United States next week.

She appealed to the public not to prejudge the case pending the investigation and asked the opposition not to exploit the case for political ends.

Presidential spokesman Rigoberto Tiglao said that Arroyo has conducted her own “very detailed” investigation and the results would be submitted to the ombudsman.

Tiglao challenged the opposition to exploit the issue “because they will be very very disappointed and embarrassed.”

Arroyo took office after her predecessor, Joseph Estrada, was forced to step down amid massive anti-corruption protests. Estrada is under detention facing charges of economic plunder, a capital offense.

Arroyo has made the fight against corruption a major platform of her government.

In her State of the Nation address last Monday, Arroyo outlined a four-point program to help the country’s poor, including raising the government and society’s “moral standards.”