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Wednesday, 11 October, 2000, 13:58 GMT 14:58 UK
Cardinal Sin tells Estrada to quit
Protesters rally outside the Senate
Anti-Estrada protesters rally outside the Senate
The head of the Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines has called on President Joseph Estrada to resign over an alleged multi-million dollar bribery scandal.

Cardinal Jaime Sin and a group of 75 senior priests issued a statement saying the president had lost his moral ascendancy to govern.

Posters depicting Estrada as mafia boss The Godfather
Posters depicting Estrada as The Godfather
President Estrada has been accused of receiving more than $8.5m in bribes from illicit gambling syndicates - allegations he has denied.

Opposition members have said they will file an impeachment motion against him this week.

The allegations against Mr Estrada have been made by provincial governor Luis "Chavit" Singson, who appeared before a public hearing at the Senate on Wednesday.

Cardinal Sin
Cardinal Sin says Estrada has no moral authority to govern
He says he has personally delivered cash and cheques to Mr Estrada over the last two years.

Mr Singson, governor of Ilocos Sur, said the pay-offs were collected from gambling operators running a lottery-style game, called jeuteng.

Mr Estrada has strongly denounced the accusations as "a smear campaign" waged by power-hungry politicians.

His spokesman said he had no intention of stepping down.

Corruption

Cardinal Sin, who helped lead the 1986 revolt that toppled late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, has been sharply critical of alleged corruption in the Estrada administration.

Mr Estrada
Mr Estrada: Allegations are smear campaign
But this is the first time he has openly urged the president to resign.

"In the light of all the scandals that have besmirched the image of the presidency in the last two years, we stand by our conviction that he has lost the moral ascendancy to govern," his statement said.

"We believe that... for the good of the people, he must relinquish his office."

Mr Singson at a public hearing at the Senate
Mr Singson says he gave pay-offs to Estrada
Under Congress rules, any impeachment resolution must be approved by one-third of the 218-member lower house.

Mr Estrada's ruling coalition controls 82% of the lower house seats.

The scandal has added to the country's economic woes, pushing the peso to a new all-time low of 47.35 against the dollar in early trade on Wednesday.

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See also:

10 Oct 00 | Asia-Pacific
Philippine leader faces impeachment
09 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Philippines graft costs billions
02 Jun 00 | Business
East Asian economy growing
18 Sep 00 | Asia-Pacific
Estrada the man of action
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