Malacanang, August 26, 2003 (STAR) President Arroyo urged opposition Sen. Gregorio Honasan yesterday to stop playing "infantile games," come out of hiding and get back to work.

State prosecutors have given Honasan, a former Army colonel who led several coup attempts in the 1980s, until tomorrow to present evidence to refute the rebellion complaint against him.

The President issued her challenge to Honasan during the "re-recognition" of the 13 members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) who have received the Medal of Valor, the country’s highest military honor.

"The Senate is waiting for Senator Honasan," she said. "He has been elected by his supporters for greater responsibilities other than to play hide-and-seek."

"The work on his desk is piling up," she added. "His claim to innocence will not be helped by infantile games and excuses."

However, Honasan said that despite his inaccessibility, he manages to run his Senate office by relaying instructions to his staff through cell phone calls and covert messages. The phone calls are short to avoid being traced, he added.

Honasan went into hiding two days after rejecting government allegations that he was the mastermind of the failed July 27 mutiny mounted by 356 junior officers and enlisted personnel of the AFP.

He says he fears the government will move against him as soon as he surfaces.

He said once the threat of an arrest disappears and Mrs. Arroyo’s Cabinet members stop portraying him as guilty, he might consider emerging from seclusion.

Meanwhile, First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo has challenged opposition Sen. Panfilo Lacson to take him to court.

Issuing his challenge through his lawyer and spokeswoman Patricia Bunye, the First Gentleman said "the Filipino public deserve(s) more than a telenovela titillating the audience with piecemeal bits and pieces of concocted misinformation."

Lacson, Bunye said, "manipulates public opinion by prolonging the period of accusations, blatantly damaging names and reputations while protecting himself by brandishing the mantle of parliamentary immunity."

She said now is the proper time for Lacson to file his case, since the senator said he has two witnesses who will allegedly bolster his accusations against the First Gentleman.

"Senator Lacson should not draw it out if he indeed has witnesses. He should file his case now and present his witnesses. We are just waiting for him to do so in order to answer all his unfounded accusations," she said. All Lacson has now, she said, "is a grand idea of media mileage, but not a case which has a credible leg to stand on."

She and lawyer Joe Nathan Tenefrancia belittled Lacson’s claims equating his witnesses with bank executive Clarissa Ocampo, who testified during ousted President Joseph Estrada’s impeachment trial before the Senate that she saw Estrada sign Equitable-PCI Bank documents under the alias Jose Velarde.

Tenefrancia said that when Ocampo became a witness at the Estrada impeachment trial, she told the truth devoid of any personal interest.

"To compare Ms. Ocampo to Lacson’s witnesses would be a cruel joke, since she is a credible, impartial and an independent witness," Tenefrancia said.

Both Bunye and Tenefrancia believe Lacson’s witnesses are below par in terms of credibility and impartiality.

"That’s probably why Sen. Lacson chose the senate session hall instead of a proper court for his dramatic but unfounded accusations," Tenefrancia said. — AFP, AP, Marichu Villanueva

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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