1st GENTLEMAN ADMITS CORRUPT ALLEGATIONS HAS PUT STRAIN ON WIFE, DAUGHTER

MANILA, September 4, 2003  (STAR) By Ann Corvera  - The mere sight of Victoria Tohís picture makes President Arroyo feel bad, First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo has admitted.

On late night television interviews Tuesday, Arroyo admitted corruption allegations against him have put a strain on his marriage.

He also said he felt sorry for his wife in the midst of allegations that he had an affair with Toh, his personal secretary and accountant of a realty firm owned by the Arroyo clan.

"Every time she sees the picture of Vicky Toh in the newspaper, of course I know she feels bad," the First Gentleman confessed on ABS-CBNís "Pipol."

The President has distanced herself from the Jose Pidal scandal, vowing not to lift a finger to help her husband clear his name. MalacaŮang has also remained mum on Mrs. Arroyoís reaction to her husbandís alleged affair with Toh.

Arroyo said "it canít be helped" that his relationship with his wife would be strained by insinuations in the local media that he had a romantic relationship with Toh.

But Arroyo belied that he and Toh were lovers, at the same time expressing pity for Toh for being dragged into the controversy triggered by a series of privileged speeches by his nemesis, opposition Sen. Panfilo Lacson.

Arroyo said his wife knows the truth but "like any woman, she gets affected."

Mrs. Arroyo, a 56-year-old mother of three, was "angered" by these suggestions. She said her husband insisted that his relationship with Toh was "professional."

He also denied rumors that he has two children with Toh. "In fact, theyíre saying that we have two children. You know, that is not true. Kawawa naman si Vicky. She is single and kawawa naman si Gloria."

Toh has denied having an affair with Arroyo, and accused Lacson of "fomenting something to disrupt or break up marriages."

She denied having written a love letter to Arroyo, which Lacson showed in a privileged speech Monday alleging that the First Gentleman is keeping two joint bank account with Toh, among other allegations.

In his 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 Tohís brother Thomas and brother-in-law Kelvin Tan, the former national police chief said.

In his speech Lacson also showed a letter purportedly written by Toh to Arroyo to prove that a check for P8 million that went to the Jose Pidal account was written by Toh.

On nationwide television, a mournful looking First Gentleman took the blame for his familyís present emotional troubles, and apologized to the President and their daughter.

"If thereís anyone whoís at fault itís me. Wala namang kasalanan dito si Gloria, walang kasalanan ang mga anak ko, lalo na ang babae kong anak. Pero lahat sila naapektuhan (My family has done nothing wrong. Gloria and my children, especially my only daughter, have done nothing wrong but they have all been affected by this)," he lamented.

"Wala namang personalan. Babuyan na yan, eh," he added.

Close to tears, Arroyo said his only daughter Luli "is severely affected" by the allegations against him and has been avoiding him.

"Luli is very close to me. But when we talk I can see pain in her eyes. I feel like crying but I just hug her," he said.

The presidential husband, who looked tired after the day-long public hearing Tuesday, addressed his daughter on GMA television.

"I just want to assure you that I love you very much. If there is any impropriety that has been committed because of this gossip, Iím very sorry Iíve caused you so much pain.

"And also to my wife, Iím very sorry."

The First Gentleman denied that he is the "weakest link" or a liability to the Arroyo presidency.

"Thatís what they always say. But I donít think so. But then it also depends on what people think. If they think that I am a liability, then Iím sorry that I am," he said. ó With AFP


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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