, FEBRUARY 28, 2008 (STAR) By Edith Regalado – President Arroyo said yesterday she will ask Congress to come up with appropriate measures aimed at addressing corruption after the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) gave her a reprieve and rejected the mounting clamor for her resignation brought about by alleged anomalies in the administration.

“We will work to fight the corruption that still plagues our nation,” the President told The STAR during an interview here at the Davao International Airport.

“For instance, I will ask Congress to pass a Comprehensive Corruption Reform Act,” said the President, who arrived here yesterday for the League of Municipalities of the Philippines-Mindanao cluster conference held at a local hotel here.

Mrs. Arroyo explained that officials shall be held accountable for their actions should they be found to be corrupt.

“We will let the chips fall, as the investigation will proceed and friend and foe alike are brought to account for their actions in the proper court and with the proper due process,” she added.

Mrs. Arroyo said the refusal of the CBCP to call for her resignation would be a good starting point for her to work on what needs to be done in the remaining days of her term.

“I know I am not perfect but I would work hard everyday in order to achieve positive and lasting change,” she said.

She said she would continue to push for a strong economy in order to help the poor. “Without a strong economy, we cannot help the poor.”

“My main concern is, there are so many things that are left to be done. And I plan to work until the last day of my term to fulfill our Philippine Reform Agenda,” she said.

Mrs. Arroyo stressed that what is equally important for her is to fight for the country’s economy, environment and education.

“I count the fight for a strong economy, to cut poverty by half in 2015, the fight for a clean environment and the fight to have quality education, as the most important imperatives of our time,” she said.

SALONGA  FILES PLUNDER RAPS  VS  GMA By Sandy Araneta Thursday, February 28, 2008

Former Senate president Jovito Salonga led a group in filing plunder charges against President Arroyo with the Office of the Ombudsman yesterday.

The complaint stemmed from the President’s supposed admission that she knew of anomalies surrounding the national broadband network (NBN) project before the contract was signed in China.

Asked about a sitting President’s immunity from criminal prosecution, Salonga said, “She is indeed immune from suits but not from investigation.”

Salonga led the group Kilosbayan in accusing Mrs. Arroyo of violating the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees and the Anti-Plunder Law following her televised admission.

Malacañang expressed disappointment over the filing of the criminal complaint, saying Salonga is “jumping on the bandwagon of reckless judicial actions against the President.”

Kilosbayan had filed the suit that prompted the Supreme Court to void the P1.2-billion poll automation deal between the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and the Mega Pacific consortium.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Lorelei Fajardo said Salonga should have waited for the Senate to end its investigation over the NBN deal before filing the complaint.

Fajardo said many investigations have also sprung up in separate efforts to identify and determine the culpability of the people involved in the scandal.

“While the CBCP (Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines) in their pastoral letter extended Christian civility in the appreciation of the current events, others have hastily concluded culpability on the part of the President,” Fajardo said.

“We pray that all may take time out to discern the impact of their actions, not so much on the President as a person, but rather the presidency as an institution,” she added.

Salonga filed a three-page complaint, citing a televised radio interview where Mrs. Arroyo admitted knowing of the irregularities surrounding the NBN contract, a day before she had witnessed the signing of the deal during a state visit in Boao, China on April 20, 2007.

Salonga said Mrs. Arroyo had admitted being informed beforehand by then National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) director general Romulo Neri of the alleged bribe attempt on him by former elections chief Benjamin Abalos in exchange for approving the contract with the ZTE.

Despite her knowledge, Salonga said Mrs. Arroyo made no effort to immediately abort or even suspend the contract notwithstanding the irregularities surrounding the deal.

Salonga said Mrs. Arroyo even witnessed the signing of the contract between Transportation Secretary Leandro Mendoza and ZTE Corp. vice president Yu Yong.

Salonga noted that it was five months later that Mrs. Arroyo ordered the cancellation of the contract, when several witnesses came out in the open and confirmed the irregularities surrounding the telecoms deal.

“The foregoing violation was committed under the circumstances when (Mrs. Arroyo), by her own express admission in a televised radio interview over dzRH made on or around February 23, 2008, and which interview was thereafter widely replayed and reported in the broadcast and print media,” stated the complaint.

Allowing the contract to proceed despite Neri’s report of the attempted bribe is sufficient ground for the filing of charges against Mrs. Arroyo, Salonga said.

Salonga also urged Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez and deputy Orlando Casimiro to inhibit themselves from the case.

Salonga cited the “bad experiences” of Kilosbayan with the two officials who dismissed the group’s complaint against Comelec Chairman Benjamin Abalos in connection with the poll automation project. - With Marvin Sy, Non Alquitran, Rainier Allan Ronda

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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