MANILA, September 3, 2003 (STAR) The man claiming to be Jose Pidal failed to show up at yesterday’s Senate hearing on accusations of money laundering against First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo.

Presidential brother-in-law and businessman Ignacio Arroyo has claimed he is the mysterious UnionBank depositor named Jose Pidal, who was listed among the resource persons and witnesses invited to the hearing.

The invitation to Pidal was served at the 8th floor, LTA Building, 118 Perea st., Legaspi Village in Makati City — the business address indicated in bank statements.

But LTA Building personnel refused to accept the invitation, claiming there was no one by that name holding office there. The Arroyo family owns the building. The 8th floor is where the First Gentleman holds office.

In his appearance before the Senate yesterday, the President’s husband admitted he knew his younger brother used the false name Jose Pidal and that he, like him, has an office at the 8th floor of their family-owned building.

When asked by Sen. Sergio Osmeña III if he could call his brother by phone and ask him to rush to the Senate so he can shed light on the controversial Pidal accounts, Arroyo suggested that senators send his brother a formal invitation.

"He owns those accounts. He is the richer Arroyo. He owns lots of properties in the United States," he told disbelieving senators.

The First Gentleman was asked a lot of questions about two buildings in San Francisco, California, which he and then Sen. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo bought for $5.2 million shortly after the 1992 elections.

He said he and Mrs. Arroyo bought the properties for his younger brother and held them in trust for him.

"Were you involved in collecting rentals from tenants?" he was asked. "No, those are my brother’s properties. You ask him," came the answer.

"Did you pay tax in the US on income earned from the buildings?" "My brother can provide you the answer," Arroyo shot back.

At one point, he was so irritated by questions about the two properties that he refused to answer other queries.

Sen. Edgardo Angara said there seems to be a "pattern" of Ignacio Arroyo saving his older brother, the First Gentleman, whenever the latter finds himself in trouble.

He said Jose Miguel Arroyo and then Senator Arroyo were the owners of the two San Francisco buildings, which he pointed out were registered in their names from 1992, when they were acquired, up to 1998.

He said based on Ignacio Arroyo’s tax payments here, the First Gentleman’s brother could not have owned the California assets and the tens of millions in Jose Pidal accounts in various banks.

Besides Jose Pidal, three vital witnesses also did not show up in yesterday’s hearing.

They are Victoria Toh, personal secretary and accountant of the President’s husband, her brother Thomas Toh and her brother-in-law Kelvin Tan.

Invitations for the three were delivered to 8th floor, LTA Building, the business address indicated in bank documents in the possession of Arroyo tormentor Sen. Panfilo Lacson, but building personnel refused to accept them.

Lacson claims Arroyo used the false name Jose Pidal and the accounts of Toh and Tan to hide millions in supposedly illegal funds. — Jess Diaz

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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