GMA  WANTS  FIRST GENTLEMAN TO DO A 'DENNIS THATCHER'

MANILA,  JUNE 29, 2004
(STAR) 
As she embarks on her full six-year term, President Arroyo is not taking any chances with the minefield of controversies that always seems to hound her husband.

The President on Sunday night said her controversial spouse, First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo, will do a "Dennis Thatcher," who had kept himself out of the limelight during the tenure of his wife, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

The former prime minister, who earned the title "Iron Lady," ruled Britain for 12 years and lived with her husband in their humble abode in London.

Her husband, who died last year, was a businessman known to have played a quiet yet vital role in his wifeís success.

After having won over a popular actor in the May 10 elections, Mrs. Arroyo rose above political adversities to step out of the shadow of having governed in an inherited presidency.

And in her first full-length television interview since winning the May 10 vote, the President expressed her desire for her husband to take on the role of a spouse living in obscurity but devoting his time and energies to his pet projects and advocacies.

"He (Mr. Arroyo) would be low profile. Itís a combination of Dennis Thatcher and the traditional first lady of the Philippines who has a favorite charity," the President said in the interview with ABS-CBNís "Rated K" TV program of Korina Sanchez, which aired when the First Gentleman turned 58 last Sunday.

On the day that his wife was proclaimed the winner by Congress on Thursday, the First Gentleman took it upon himself to declare his intention to stay "out of the limelight."

The First Gentleman was perceived to be the "weakest link" in the three-year inherited presidency of his wife, barely surviving the "Jose Pidal" controversy last year that labeled him as a money launderer.

It came at a time when Mrs. Arroyo kept her political opponents guessing if she would seek a fresh mandate in the elections.

While denying the corruption allegations hurled by her husbandís erstwhile arch-nemesis Sen. Panfilo Lacson, the President kept a safe distance from the "Jose Pidal" dilemma, leaving the First Gentleman to fend for himself.

"Jose Pidal," according to Lacson, was the alias the First Gentleman used to launder millions of money under fictitious bank accounts.

The serious allegations accompanied by bank documents and witnesses prompted a Senate investigation, but it did not last.

A few days after she and Vice President-elect Noli de Castro were proclaimed by Congress, Mrs. Arroyo reiterated the policy that her family comes a far third to God and country in the order of her priorities.

This, she said, she learned from her late father, former President Diosdado Macapagal and has faithfully observed in the three years that she took the helm of government from deposed President Joseph Estrada.

During a talk with reporters Thursday, the First Gentleman said he has embraced the privacy he gets from staying "out of the limelight," which he has done since Mrs. Arroyo began her election campaign.

With Mrs. Arroyo guaranteed another six years of high-profile exposure, the First Gentleman vowed to take a less prominent role in the new administration.

"Iíll be out of the limelight. Iíll focus more on sports and charities," he has said, expressing keenness on helping Filipino athletes in next yearís Southeast Asian Games to be held in Manila.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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