Opponents of Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo called for an inquiry yesterday into her role in a growing corruption scandal after she publicly acknowledged she allowed the signing of a major telecommunications contract after being warned of irregularities in the deal.
Arroyo admitted on Saturday she was warned last April about possible corruption in the US$330 million contract with Chinese telecommunications giant ZTE Corp, but said her government could not immediately back off from signing a deal.
Arroyo flew to China on April 21 last year to witness Chinese officials signing the contract, along with four other projects to be funded by China.
Five months later, Arroyo ordered officials to drop the deal after a losing bidder testified in the Senate that her husband and the then-elections chief had threatened him to make him abandon his bid for the national broadband project. Both men have denied any wrongdoing.
Arroyo's opponents say her statement and decision to scrap the project prove it was ridden with irregularities.
Arroyo did not say who told her about the alleged irregularities or specify what they were.
Arroyo said in a nationally televised speech after attending Mass yesterday that her government needed time to properly notify the Chinese government before deciding to cancel the ZTE contract.
She added that she ordered two Cabinet members to study which agency should investigate an alleged bribery attempt in the ZTE project.
The scandal over the project has set off street protests, coup rumors and calls for the resignation of Arroyo, who has survived three impeachment bids and four attempted coups in her seven turbulent years in power.
Arroyo warned her rivals yesterday that that any attempt to oust her in a "people's power" revolt would damage her country's image and repel foreign investment.
Her comments came as opposition and left-wing groups prepared to commemorate a 1986 popular uprising today that toppled dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
The groups planned to stage protests in 15 cities to demand Arroyo's resignation following a slew of corruption scandals.