Philippines President admits 'bribe' offer

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The Independent Online

President Joseph Estrada of the Philippines said yesterday that a provincial governor, who has accused him of receiving gambling pay-offs, offered him 200m pesos (£2.8m) as a bribe, which he refused.

President Joseph Estrada of the Philippines said yesterday that a provincial governor, who has accused him of receiving gambling pay-offs, offered him 200m pesos (£2.8m) as a bribe, which he refused.

Answering allegations made by Luis Singson, the governor of the northern Llocos Sur province, Mr Estrada said all the money was still in an account and would be used as evidence of his innocence at his impeachment trial.

Mr Singson, President Estrada's former gambling and drinking partner, has testified that the President asked him to collect millions of dollars in pay-offs from illegal gambling operators and said he delivered the money to the President.

The House of Representatives is scheduled to prepare articles of impeachment next week. Mr Estrada is almost certain to be tried since more than the necessary 73 House members have signed a resolution backing impeachment.

The President telephoned three radio stations in Manila to deny the accusations against him, saying Mr Singson had offered him a bribe from the gambling operators but that he had rejected it. "I said, 'I will not accept that'," he said. "The money accumulated and he deposited it in several places. I learnt about it only lately."

He said Mr Singson had insisted on delivering the money and had asked an aide of his to give 200m pesos to an Estrada aide, the former minister for political affairs Edward Serapio. The money was deposited in an account intended for young Muslim scholars, the President said.

"The money is still intact, not even one cent of it has been spent," Mr Estrada said.

Critics have said the Muslim youth foundation was a front used by the President to cover up the pay-offs.

Mr Estrada said his defence was ready and he would appear at an impeachment trial if required. "There will be a time for truth and judgement. It's drawing near," he said.

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