LACSON BREAKING UP A MARRIAGE - VICKY TOH

MANILA, September 3, 2003  (STAR) By Nikko Dizon  - Jose Miguel Arroyo’s personal secretary, Victoria Toh, denied yesterday having an affair with the First Gentleman, saying opposition Sen. Panfilo Lacson could break up Arroyo’s marriage.

Toh denied having written a love letter to Arroyo, which Lacson showed in a privileged speech Monday accusing Arroyo of keeping two joint bank accounts with Toh, among other allegations.

"You are not deserving to be called or to be respected as a senator," Toh, on vacation in Canada, said in a message to Lacson faxed to her lawyers in Manila.

"Lacson is fomenting something to disrupt or break up marriages," Toh’s lawyer Gelacio Mamaril said. "Nang-iintriga siya ng mag-asawa para maghiwalay sila (He’s sowing intrigue to split the couple) and break up their family."

In his privileged speech, Lacson stepped up his money laundering allegations against Arroyo, accusing him of hiding up to P128 million in several secret bank accounts, three of them under the name Jose Pidal.

Toh jointly owned two of the Jose Pidal accounts, containing a total of P49 million, Lacson claimed.

Arroyo also used the accounts of Toh and those of Toh’s brother Thomas and brother-in-law Kelvin Tan, the former national police chief said.

In his speech, Lacson used a letter supposedly written by Toh to Arroyo to prove that a check for P8 million that went to a Jose Pidal account was written by Toh.

"Kelvin Tan pre-signed the check, using a different pen. Vicky Toh filled in the blanks," he said.

Using a video presentation, Lacson compared the word "only" written on the check and with one in a letter written by Toh that said: "Just writing you a short note to say that I’ll be missing you. My only wish is that you’d take care of yourself. I can’t help worrying about you."

Toh disowned the letter. She said many people have the same handwriting and that she studied in an exclusive school for girls that taught penmanship. She did not say which school.

Toh developed sleeping problems because of the allegations, Mamaril said, adding they are preparing to file a libel suit.

In his speech, each time Lacson gave details about the bank accounts — complete with account numbers, balances and transaction dates — he asked: "Mr. Jose Pidal, alam ba ni Mrs. itoh (does your wife know about this)?"

Lacson asked the question 20 times, referring to Arroyo’s alleged affair.

He questioned the funds in two separate accounts allegedly owned by Toh. One was with Banco de Oro under account number 00218008731, containing P19,531,000 as of July. Another with Banco Filipino under account number 11043-000684-2, containing P16,290,075.54 as of July.

Toh denied owning the accounts: "He is inventing and fabricating the accounts."

Asked how President Arroyo took the allegations against her husband, deputy presidential spokesman Ricardo Saludo said the palace would make no comment because they do not involve the President.

"We will not respond to those because those allegations are allegations of private nature," he told a press conference. "Matters of private nature, those referring to the First Gentleman, would not be our concern."

The STAR learned yesterday that the First Gentleman would not join his wife when she leaves this morning for a brief trip to Brunei to address an international economic conference.

The Senate began its probe on the money laundering allegations against the First Gentleman yesterday.

Saludo said Malacañang would provide documents to the inquiry if needed.

"We abide by the rules of transparency in the conduct of government, especially in the Office of the President. Any information or materials that may be needed by the Senate to verify these allegations by Senator Lacson will be made available." — With Marichu Villanueva


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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