MANILA,  August 3, 2004
By Marichu Villanueva - President Arroyo and her husband, First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo, quietly spent their 36th wedding anniversary yesterday with the two newest members of the First Family.

And for the fourth straight day, the President did not have any official schedule in or out of Malacañang.

But the controversial First Gentleman, before hearing Mass with his family, filed a libel complaint against a newspaper publisher and a civil society leader for allegedly maligning him.

As his traditional gift to his wife on special occasions, the First Gentleman gave the President a single white rose among a dozen red roses.

The First Gentleman refused to say what other wedding anniversary present he gave his wife, asking that it be kept private between them.

Giving his wife one white rose among a slew of red ones has been Mr. Arroyo’s way of showing his love for her. The tradition began 36 years ago when he was competing with other men to win her affection.

Asked about his wedding anniversary wish, the First Gentleman, 58, replied: "To live to a ripe old age with my wife."

"We’ll make up after her presidency," he said.

The President is only a year younger than her husband. They have three children Mikey, Luli and Dato, and are grandparents to two girls.

Eldest son Mikey, 35, a Pampanga congressman, has a daughter named Mikaela Gloria who is more than a year old now.

The most recent addition to the Arroyo family is the first-born daughter of youngest son Dato named Eva Victoria. She was born last February.

The First Family celebrated a quiet dinner last night at the Hotel Intercontinental in Makati City.

But a few hours before they heard together a special Mass at 3 p.m. at the Palace, the First Gentleman motored to the Manila City Hall to file two separate multimillion peso libel suits - one against Malaya newspaper publisher Jake Macasaet and another against William Esposo, chairman of the Council on Philippine Affairs, or COPA.

Mr. Arroyo, a magnet to controversy, asked for P10 million in damages and P1 million for lawyers’ fees in each of the two libel cases, or a total of P22 million.

These cases stemmed from allegations that the First Gentleman engaged in vote-buying and other questionable activities during the poll campaign of his wife in the May 10 elections.

There are a total of eight libel suits filed by the First Gentleman before the Manila Prosecutor’s Office against his strongest critics. He accused them of maliciously maligning him before the media through press releases.

The President has kept a safe distance from the controversies that have embroiled her husband, the worst of which was last year’s so-called "Jose Pidal" scandal exposed by Sen. Panfilo Lacson in a series of privilege speeches at the Senate.

Lacson had accused the First Gentleman of laundering millions of pesos his wife received from previous campaign contributions using "Jose Pidal" accounts. Mr. Arroyo denies this.

The First Gentleman’s younger brother, Ignacio Arroyo, owned up to the account but repeatedly invoked his right to privacy during a Senate inquiry. The probe was not concluded.

During Mrs. Arroyo’s campaign for a full six-year term in the last elections, her husband opted to hold his own campaigning for her.

A few weeks after her proclamation, the First Gentleman vowed to stay out of the limelight saying he will focus on his pet projects in charity and sports.

Meanwhile, The STAR received complaints from participants of an awarding ceremony that was supposed to be attended by the President yesterday.

Apparently, the President’s appointments secretary failed to consider the wedding anniversary of Mrs. Arroyo when they scheduled her to hand the awards to the winners of the "Nationwide Search for Model Barangay for Eco-Waste Management" by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources at 10 a.m.

The Palace appointments office issued a last-minute notice last Sunday to organizers that the affair was postponed to this Thursday.

The notice, however, came in too late as most of the awardees from the provinces had already flown all the way to Manila. - With Cecille Suerte Felipe

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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