Manila, August 21, 2003 (MALAYA) By JOCELYN MONTEMAYOR - Jose Miguel Arroyo, the President's husband, yesterday confirmed his relation with Jose Maria Pidal Arroyo but belied reports he and the "millionaire Pidal" are one and the same.

It was learned Tuesday that a senator named Jose Ma. Pidal Arroyo represented the Iloilo-Capiz-Romblon region from 1919 to 1925. Pidal was traced to the Arroyos through Ignacio, first patriarch of the Arroyo family, who was married to a Pidal. Mr. Arroyo, who on Tuesday said he had never heard of Pidal, has a brother also named Ignacio.

Arroyo said in a statement he had known his grandfather only as "Jose Maria Arroyo."

"Until very recently, I was not aware that my great-grandmother's name was Pidal, and I only knew my grandfather's name as 'Jose Maria Arroyo.' Upon the death of my grandfather, the family moved from Iloilo to Negros which is why we grew up not knowing our relatives in Iloilo," he said.

"How many of us would know the maiden name of our great-grandmother? I didn't, until I had it checked. In any event, the fact I have a relative or ancestor by the name is not a basis to link me to the Pidal accounts," he added.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson, in a privileged speech Monday, said Mr. Arroyo is maintaining multi-million-peso bank accounts at the Union Bank and the Bank of the Philippine Island branches in Makati in the name of dummies, including "Jose Pidal."

Mr. Arroyo challenged Lacson to present original documents bearing the "Jose Pidal" signature and allow signature experts of the NBI or PNP to determine their authenticity.

He also welcomed a certification issued by the Bank of the Philippine Islands that there is no existing account under his name or of Jose Pidal in their branch on Perea street. BPI has said the branch has been closed since 1999.

"The release of the certification clearly belies Senator Lacson's allegation that an alleged bank statement dated July 30, 2003 allegedly showing millions in the name of Jose Pidal ... I would like to remind Senator Lacson that under the Anti-Money Laundering Act, any person who, with malice, or in bad faith reports or files a completely unwarranted or false information relative to money laundering transaction against any person shall be subject to imprisonment and fine," he said.

Patricia Bunye-Roxas, Mr. Arroyo's spokeswoman, said the President's husband is willing to appear before Senate.

Roxas also said Lacson's allegation is a direct attack on President Arroyo, and it is part of plot to destabilize government.

Mr. Arroyo, in an ambush interview at the Lourdes Tuason-Arroyo (LTA) building in Salcedo village, Makati, reiterated his challenge Lacson to "take me to court."

He gave media a tour at the LTA building, including his office.

President Arroyo said Tuesday night there is nothing sinister going on in the LTA building which, Lacson has said, is a "money machine where government deals are hatched and fortunes amassed."

"That's an old building. I just would like to take you there to show you. ... (The tenants in LTA are) doing legitimate business there," she said adding she advised LTA tenants to talk to the media, especially if they felt that they have been affected by Lacson's exposé.

The President said one fourth of LTA building is owned by her husband. She said the Arroyo siblings bought it out of their earnings from the sale of the JMT building along Ayala avenue to the Ayalas in 1978.

She said LTA rents out office space to different establishments. She said the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats, which President Arroyo chairs, has been holding their headquarters there since 1998.

The alleged dummies threatened to file charges against Lacson.

Vicky Toh, Mr. Arroyo's secretary and accountant, said in an interview over dzMM from Vancouver she, her brother Thomas and brother-in-law Kelvin Tan own the accounts that Lacson said is Mr. Arroyo's.

She accused Lacson of using the Senate to destroy people's reputations.

She added she is in Vancouver on vacation and is not in hiding.

She cried fouled over allegations she had an illicit relationship with Mr. Arroyo.

Mary Anne Tan, wife of Kelvin and sister of Vicky, said there was nothing "personal" between her sister and the President's husband.

"Kawawa naman iyung aking kapatid," said Mrs. Tan in an interview with TV patrol. President Arroyo on Tuesday night merely smiled at text messages about the supposed relationship.

Gelacio Mamaril, lawyer of the Tohs, said they were considering filing a complaint against Lacson before the Senate ethics committee.

"Our first priority is to safeguard the ownership of the Toh family over the funds in their accounts, which they accumulated through legitimate means and enterprises," he also said.

Mamaril said Vicky was devastated after Lacson had alluded to her having a special relationship with Mr. Arroyo. Thomas lamented "the irresponsible and uncalled-for-attack on our family honor."

"All I can say to Senator Lacson is, you are no officer and gentleman," Vicky said.

Sen. Robert Barbers began his defense of Mr. Arroyo, claiming there was nothing wrong with a government official visiting Mr. Arroyo at his office.

Barbers was referring to Lacson's claim that Ephraim Genuino, Pagcor chief, was spotted several times visiting the LTA office, carrying with him boxes, the contents of which were unknown to Lacson.

"There is no categorical indication that the boxes contained money, if indeed it is true. Why does Genuino not just issue a check payable to another's name to avoid detection or suspicion?" Barbers said.

He also said journalists Ramon Tulfo and Jarius Bondoc and his wife Marissa were only doing their jobs when they criticized Lacson at the height of the Senate's inquiry into the allegations of money laundering, kidnap for ransom and illegal drugs trafficking against Lacson.

Arroyo accuses Lacson of spying on Mike A The Philippine Star 08/21/2003

President Arroyo has accused Sen. Panfilo Lacson of "spying" on people entering and leaving a building in Makati belonging to the family of First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo.

"That’s why I told the tenants of the building to come out to the media and show who they are after (Lacson’s) exposé painted their offices as doing sinister things," she said.

Speaking at a dinner for the Malacañang Press Corps Tuesday night, Mrs. Arroyo said there was "nothing sinister" in the LTA Building on Perea St., Makati, as Lacson had pictured in his privilege speech at the Senate Monday.

"There was nothing sinister in that building," she said. "It’s just like any other building where people, private citizens who do their normal conduct of business." Mrs. Arroyo said she dreads the day when Lacson becomes president as he could send spies to look into the private lives of individual citizens.

"If the way I had supposedly treated a GMA-7 reporter ... sent a chilling effect to media, how much more if Ping becomes president when he spies even on private citizens there," she said, referring to a recent incident in which she publicly scolded television reporter Tina Panganiban-Perez for interviewing Sen. Gregorio Honasan, accused of trying to topple her administration.

Mrs. Arroyo told Perez that she was seen by "assets" interviewing the fugitive senator, who denies participating in the July 27 failed mutiny.

Mrs. Arroyo’s angry remark fueled suspicions that government agents have been spying on the press.

Malacañang officials later defused a possible political storm, saying the government does not spy on reporters.

Agents of the former Philippine National Police chief had "spied on" all of her husband’s visitors at the LTA Building, she added.

Mr. Arroyo said he uses the 8th floor of LTA Building as his "formal work place" for his duties as First Gentleman, although an office has been provided for him at the New Executive Building.

"I did not wish to give anyone cause to think that I am in any way interfering with the Office of the President," he said in a statement from Malacañang.

"Everyone knows this. My offices at LTA Building are open to all. This is no secret."

Mr. Arroyo said his visitors at LTA "in addition to Mr. Lacson’s maliciously selective list include senators and congressmen, priests, nuns, journalists, sports heroes" and many beneficiaries of his charity projects.

"Mr. Lacson has obviously placed my office under constant surveillance, which explains the heightened reports of suspicious characters and vehicles around our premises," he said.

Mrs. Arroyo said the Arroyo siblings built LTA after selling the family-owned JMT Building along Ayala Avenue in Makati in 1978.

"So my husband owns one-fourth of that property," she said.

The controversial building is named for her husband’s late mother, Lourdes Tuason Arroyo, she added.

Mrs. Arroyo invited Malacañang reporters to a dinner in the Palace’s Heroes Hall after her controversial public scolding of Perez. – Marichu Villanueva

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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