MANILA,  May 4, 2004
By Jess Diaz And Edu Punay  - Malacañang has paid superstar Nora Aunor a whopping P6.2 million just to sing and dance with President Arroyo during her campaign sorties, according to the camps of independent presidential candidate Sen. Panfilo Lacson and Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino (KNP) standard-bearer Fernando Poe Jr. yesterday.

Malacañang, in a statement, denied paying Aunor the amount, claiming a "blatant forgery and a statement of real despair among the detractors of President Arroyo."

Palace officials insisted that Aunor, Nora Villamayor in real life, was paid only P620,000.

"It was a reasonable amount paid for such professional services and the transaction was transparent and aboveboard," Malacañang said.

During an interview with ABS-CBN’s "TV Patrol" news program last night, Aunor also denied receiving P6.2 million for endorsing Mrs. Arroyo.

"I cannot in my conscience accept that big amount," Aunor said in Filipino.

She explained that even during the campaign of former President Joseph Estrada, she was not even paid a single centavo.

Aunor confirmed receiving P620,000 as consultancy fees last year. She later claimed the documents showing the P6.2 million she supposedly received might have been forged, pointing out the discrepancies in the dates on the check and the amount.

"Desperadong tao lang ang gagawa ’nun (only desperate people will do things like that)," Aunor declared.

Both opposition camps declared that the President had paid an excessive amount of taxpayer’s money to Aunor just to endorse her candidacy.

"The payment to Miss Aunor is one more proof that the President has been indiscriminately using taxpayers’ money for her campaign," claimed Lacson’s lone senatorial candidate, Nueva Vizcaya Rep. Carlos Padilla.

Padilla pointed to an alleged "highly irregular" payment made by Malacañang to Aunor showing photocopies of a supposed voucher covering the disbursement and check payment.

In a statement, the KNP also claimed obtaining a copy of a check issued on March 4, 2004 "as payment of actual services rendered in the Office of the President."

Both Padilla and the KNP revealed that the check, payable to the Land Bank of the Philippines-Malacañang branch, was issued by one Leonila Sioson of the LDP and by Malacañang’s senior deputy executive secretary Waldo Flores.

They said the check was supported by official vouchers signed by the Office of the President.

The KNP said the P6.2 million to Aunor "could be the talent fee being paid by Malacañang to celebrity endorsers who have been supporting President Arroyo through political ads or personal appearance in campaign sorties around the country."

"We are asking Malacañang to verify if indeed the amount of P6.2 million from the Office of the President was used to pay for the services of Ms. Aunor," said Hector Villacorta, KNP secretariat director.

Villacorta said they got the documents when an unidentified source slipped under the door of their campaign headquarters in Pasig City photocopies of the supposed check and the voucher.

Lacson’s camp, however, would not say how they were able to get copies of the documents.

Both opposition camps showed photocopies of the check (0000422544-80) and disbursement voucher (045-035639)

covering the amount of P6.2 million. The check and disbursement vouchers showed the date March 4, 2004.

In its statement, Malacañang also supplied photocopies of the supposed check but with the amount down to P620,000.

Photocopies of the check and the disbursement showed Sept. 4, 2003.

Malacañang stressed the claims were based on "doctored" documents.

"To foist this forgery upon the unwitting public shows the depth and despair now being encountered by the political opponents of President Arroyo," the Palace said.

But campaign Spokesman Michael Defensor confirmed Aunor indeed was paid in September 2003 for services rendered and expenses she incurred in the outreach programs of the government.

"There was a check but not 6.2 million pesos, it was just 620,000 pesos and that was part of her (Aunor) help to the social civic projects and outreach program of the President," Defensor told reporters when asked for a reaction.

He clarified the check was issued to Aunor when Mrs. Arroyo had not even declared her intention to run for the presidential elections this year.

"Definitely, there was a contract contrary to claims of the opposition that it was only being paid now to Miss Aunor for her supposed election services. So there is no truth to that," Defensor said.

"We are prepared to show these documents to the public that this is a payment to Miss Nora Aunor for services rendered in 2003 and not for 2004 elections," he said over ANC cable television.

The KNP claimed Mrs. Arroyo took time in her campaign to do a duet with Aunor in a concert at the Folk Arts Theater in Manila last Friday.

They said observers noted the concert looked more like a miting de avance when the singer-actress openly endorsed Mrs. Arroyo.

Among the visible campaigners were television host Boy Abunda, actress-television host Kris Aquino, singer-actress Pops Fernandez. comedienne Ai-Ai de las Alas and world boxing legend Manny Pacquiao.

Defensor said the appearances made by Aunor in Mrs. Arroyo’s campaign sorties were "for free" and that the superstar did not ask for any talent fees. - With Marichu Villanueva

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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