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November 26, 2008

Allies of Philippine president move to expel her accuser from Congress

Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's allies rushed to her defence on Tuesday by moving to expel a former speaker of the lower house of Congress who alleged that she had direct knowledge of a corruption scandal, reported Reuters.

Jose de Venecia Jr., a congressman and former close ally of Arroyo, has linked the president's husband to a $329 million telecommunications kickback scandal involving China's ZTE Corp. and said Arroyo was aware of her husband's role in the deal.

In a congressional hearing on Monday, he also accused Arroyo of bribing fellow lawmakers and local government officials in 2007 to protect herself from an impeachment complaint arising from the telecoms scandal.

On Tuesday, de Venecia's colleagues in Congress filed a motion to expel him from the legislature for casting doubt on the integrity of lawmakers. They also asked the chamber's ethics committee to investigate him after he admitted accepting bribes.

"If he wants to stay clean from the sins of corruption that he charged members of the House of Representatives, then he should go away," Edelmiro Amante, a congressman, told reporters after filing the motion.

De Venecia fell out with Arroyo late last year when his son alleged a rigging of the contract awarded to ZTE Corp to build a broadband network for state agencies in the Philippines.

The House of Representatives, packed with Arroyo loyalists, is most likely to reject the latest impeachment complaint against Arroyo, the fourth such motion in as many years.

There are only 10 opposition members in the 55-member House committee on justice, which will vote to accept the impeachment complaint on Wednesday.

Alongside her domination of Congress, Arroyo is supported by the army and the powerful Catholic church. Her term in office lasts until 2010 and she is not eligible to seek re-election.

Analysts have said prominent politicians are unlikely to join any bid to have Arroyo removed by impeachment with less than two years to go before the 2010 election, preferring to conserve their energies for the long poll campaign.

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