MANILA, January 13, 2003 (STAR) By Jess Diaz - Two pro-administration congressmen want ousted President Joseph Estrada investigated on the controversial $350-million Industrias Metalurgica Pescarmonas Sociedad Anonimas (Impsa) contract for the rehabilitation of the Caliraya-Botokan-Kalayaan power plant in Laguna.

In a resolution, Rep. Amado Espino Jr. of Pangasinan and Prospero Nograles of Davao City said it is not only Arroyo administration officials who should be probed in connection with the controversy but Estrada and his officials as well.

They said the ousted president should appear before the Senate tomorrow not as a resource person or a witness but as an accused.

"Documents show that Mr. Estrada and his officials signed the Impsa contract," they said.

They are asking the House good government committee to conduct its own investigation on the deal. The Senate probe was initiated by Estrada allies.

The Arroyo administration and Estrada’s camp have blamed each other for the controversial transaction.

Palace officials have said the allegedly irregular transaction was consummated during the time of Estrada. On the other hand, the former president said it was President Arroyo who gave the final approval for the huge contract.

In fact, Estrada said former Justice Secretary Hernando Perez gave a legal opinion that the contract could be implemented just four days into the Arroyo administration.

Without the Perez ruling, the contract is nothing, he claimed.

The former president is scheduled to appear before the Senate tomorrow. He is expected to be asked on his claim that Manila Rep. Mark Jimenez allegedly offered him $14 million for the Impsa contract.

Jimenez and Impsa have both denied making the offer. The Manila congressman is now in detention in Miami, Florida, where he is facing illegal election campaign contributions, mail fraud and tax evasion charges.

Jimenez has accused Perez of extorting $2 million from him, an accusation that the former justice secretary had denied.

Opposition Sen. Panfilo Lacson has claimed that the $2 million was part of the $14 million "bribe" for the Impsa contract.

Lacson has refused to file charges against Perez or anyone in connection with the contract.

Meanwhile, opposition Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr. said yesterday the congressional inquiry into the alleged anomalies surrounding the $470-million deal between the government and Impsa would test President Arroyo’s commitment to fight graft and corruption in government.

This is why, Pimentel said, he has cautioned Malacañang and the Philippine National Police (PNP) against making a last-minute attempt to again block Estrada from testifying before the Senate on the power agreement between the government and Impsa tomorrow.

Pimentel said the nation is entitled to know the truth behind the former president’s allegations that Impsa offered a $14 million bribe in exchange for the approval its contract to repair and maintain the Caliraya-Botocan-Kalayaan hydroelectric plants in Laguna.

"Former President Estrada should be allowed to reveal what he knows about the alleged bribery try and alleged irregularities in the contract. And it would be to the credit of the Macapagal-Arroyo administration if it will not hide anything about this controversial contract," Pimentel said.

He also expressed the hope that there will be no more hitches in Estrada’s appearance before the Senate after PNP Director General Hermogenes Ebdane said the necessary security arrangements have been worked out. — With Sammy Santos

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