[PHOTO AT LEFT - Pampanga Gov. Ed Panlilio holds up the gift bag that contained P500,000 cash which was allegedly handed to a member of his staff following a governors’ league meeting at Malacañang last week. Photo by ERNIE PEÑAREDONDO]

MANILA, OCTOBER 16, 2007 (STAR) By Ding Cervantes - Pampanga Gov. Ed Panlilio said he is convinced the P500,000 he received at a gathering in Malacañang last week was not a bribe.

Panlilio was about to leave the Palace grounds after a meeting with the League of Governors when his chief of staff Archie Reyes handed him a bag, which turned out to contain the money. He said it was Bulacan Gov. Joselito Mendoza who gave the bag to his chief of staff and who informed him earlier that money for the barangay elections would be distributed after the meeting of the governors.

“I did not think it was bribe money, otherwise I would not have accepted it,” Panlilio said in a statement read to reporters.

“I received it in good faith. I considered the money to have come from public funds, as it was given by Malacañang. It will be used for public purposes,” he said.

“Let me also clarify that when I received the money after the meeting I attended in Malacañang, nobody in any way tied it with the pending impeachment complaint against the President,” he said.

He said he asked provincial administrator Vivian Dabu to prepare an official letter acknowledging receipt of the amount, with a request for Malacañang to indicate who should be named as payee for the official receipt to be issued by the provincial government.

“I have also asked that the official source of the fund be identified,” Panlilio said.

“If confirmed that the money was given as donation to the province for use in various community projects, an official receipt shall be issued and the money will be deposited in a trust fund account,” Panlilio said.

Panlilio also told a press conference that to his knowledge, Malacañang made no attempt to bribe the governors in connection with the impeachment case against the President.

“During the meeting of the governors’ league, there was an agreement for the league to keep its distance from the issue and allow the law to take its course,” he noted.

Mendoza, meanwhile, admitted that it was he who handed the bag containing the money to Panlilio’s staff but denied he knew what was inside the bag.

He said he was about to leave the Palace when a woman asked him to hand the brown bag to Panlilio.

“But I handed it to his staff without knowing what’s inside,” Mendoza told reporters at a press conference in Malolos, Bulacan.

He said he entrusted the money to Board Member Cornelio Santos, the current president of the Association of Barangay Captains (ABC) in Bulacan. Mendoza earlier denied he handed a bag containing money to Panlilio. – With Ric Sapnu, Dino Balabo

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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