Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A Repost From AFP

Ex-Arroyo aide may turn state witness: Philippines' Aquino

Philippine President Benigno Aquino gestures during his first media briefing at the Malacanang Palace in Manila. A former minister in the government of ex-Philippine leader Gloria Arroyo could be used as a state witness in a corruption case against her, Aquino said Wednesday.
Slideshow: Faces of Asia PH

MANILA (AFP) - – A former minister in the government of ex-Philippine leader Gloria Arroyo could be used as a state witness in a corruption case against her, President Benigno Aquino said Wednesday.

Aquino said he recently met former agriculture minister Cito Lorenzo and told him the government wanted him to testify against Arroyo in one of the many scandals that rocked her government.

"I did not have the occasion to talk to him extensively when I saw him, but I did say that 'I have a lot of questions for you' and I left it at that," Aquino told reporters.

Asked whether a recently created "truth commission" tasked to go after Arroyo over alleged corruption would get Lorenzo as a witness, Aquino said: "That is a possibility".

"It is an accepted doctrine that the person with the least guilt who can help you in prosecution is afforded certain privileges, among them immunity from suit," he said.

Aquino said the brief exchange occurred during a private party thrown by one of his aides.

Lorenzo was the agriculture minister when about 728 million pesos (15.68 million dollars) intended as fertilizer funds for small farmers was allegedly diverted to Arroyo's election campaign in 2004.

Arroyo eventually won the election by a slim margin amid widespread allegations of cheating, including vote buying and influence peddling.

Lorenzo fled the country two years later when the Senate launched an investigation into the scandal. It is unclear when Lorenzo returned to the Philippines.

Aquino said that Lorenzo told him while in exile through emissaries that he feared for his life.

"If he has damaging information on certain parties, then the revelation will serve some sort of safeguard for his own safety," Aquino said.

"Keeping it in limbo, not putting it on the public record does not help his cause.'

Aquino won the presidency by a landslide in May, largely on a promise to rid government of corruption weighing down the impoverished country.

Among his first orders when he assumed office last week was to appoint a retired Supreme Court justice to head the "truth commission" that would go after Arroyo, who was required by constitutional term limits to step down.

Reposted From AFP

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