PIDAL ISSUE MAY LEAD TO GMA'S IMPEACHMENT - OPPOSITION LAWMAKER

MANILA, September 5, 2003  (STAR) By Paolo Romero  - President Arroyo could be impeached over the money-laundering scandal involving her husband Jose Miguel Arroyo and brother-in-law Ignacio, an opposition lawmaker said yesterday.

House Assistant Minority Leader Gilbert Remulla said the President could be impeached if it can be clearly established that she violated the Constitution by tolerating or allowing any act of impropriety by her husband or brother-in-law.

The filing of an impeachment complaint "may come... at an appropriate time," Remulla said. "We are taking things one day at a time."

He said that as President, Mrs. Arroyo has a constitutional duty to uphold the law even if it involves people very close to her.

Other opposition lawmakers indicated yesterday they may move for the filing of an impeachment complaint.

House Minority Leader Carlos Padilla, Iloilo Rep. Rolex Suplico and Makati City Rep. Agapito Aquino called on Mrs. Arroyo to throw the book at the Arroyo brothers, saying that failure to implement the law against the two could constitute a violation of the Constitution and her oath of office.

"The President has no choice except to execute the laws in the wake of the controversial Jose Pidal accounts," the congressmen said in a statement.

Opposition Sen. Panfilo Lacson had accused the First Gentleman of laundering up to P128 million in several dummy accounts, three of them under the name Jose Pidal.

Two of the Jose Pidal accounts contained a total of P49 million and were owned jointly by Victoria Toh, with whom the First Gentleman was having an affair, Lacson claimed.

Ignacio, the First Gentleman’s brother, admitted that he opened accounts under the name Jose Pidal, one in 1997 and another a year later.

At the time it was common practice for businessmen wary of kidnappings to use aliases in bank accounts, he said.

One account was closed in October 2000, the other in August 2001, a month before the anti-money laundering law went into effect banning the use of fictitious names in accounts or nameless accounts, he added.

Ignacio denied the money in those accounts were illegal funds.

Mr. Arroyo’s younger brother denied that he opened other accounts as alleged by Lacson in his privilege speech Monday. He said he will write the banks enumerated by Lacson to confirm whether or not these accounts exist.

Lacson, however, disputed Ignacio’s claim that he is the real Jose Pidal, saying he was a "fall guy."

Suplico said many laws have been violated by Mr. Arroyo and his brother, including the anti-money laundering act, the anti-graft and corrupt practices act, the plunder law, the code of conduct and ethical standards governing public officials and employees, and Presidential Decree 1829 penalizing obstruction of justice.

In an earlier interview, Lacson said Ignacio was the Arroyo sibling who earlier claimed legitimate ownership of some properties in the United States reportedly owned by the First Couple.

Several residential buildings in San Francisco were said to have been bought by the Arroyos in 1992 and 1993 when Mrs. Arroyo was still a senator.

The Arroyos deny owning the buildings, worth an estimated P230 million. The properties were not declared by the President in her financial statements.

Public officials are required by law to submit statements about their assets and liabilities annually to curb graft by seeing if they are living within their means.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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