MANILA, June 22, 2005
(STAR) By Aurea Calica - First Gentleman Jose Miguel "Mike" Arroyo stepped back into the spotlight yesterday to join President Arroyo during arrival honors for Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and his party.

Mrs. Arroyo’s husband was noticeably absent during the June 12 Independence Day celebrations at the Quirino Grandstand in Manila and the National Day reception for the diplomatic corps at Malacañang the day before.

The President’s spouse is expected to attend such affairs.

Mr. Arroyo, who attracted controversy once again after being tagged as a beneficiary of jueteng payoffs along with his son, Pampanga Rep. Juan Miguel "Mikey" Arroyo, and brother, Negros Occidental Rep. Ignacio "Iggy" Arroyo, has been out of the public eye recently.

The First Gentleman has yet to comment publicly about his alleged involvement in jueteng even as the Senate hearings into the issue proceed. His son and brother, meanwhile, have filed libel cases against confessed jueteng bagwoman Sandra Cam after she told the Senate committees investigating the issue that she personally delivered payola to the public officials.

Following the ceremony, the First Gentleman was unavailable for comment on the issues hounding him and his family. His cell phone was also switched off.

Aside from the Jose Pidal case in which he was accused of funneling millions of pesos of campaign contributions into a dummy bank account, Mr. Arroyo was also criticized earlier this year for staying at a luxurious hotel suite in Las Vegas for free to watch a Manny Pacquiao boxing match.

While the President expressed sadness over allegation of her son’s involvement in jueteng that forced him to take a leave of absence from the House of Representatives, she was able to joke about her husband’s predicament in a recent interaction with reporters.

Journalists had asked about the whereabouts of Mr. Arroyo, who had reportedly gone abroad to "cool off" after the jueteng accusations erupted.

"Don’t you guys want him to disappear?" she told reporters, adding that he would be return soon.

Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said the First Gentleman has not spoken about the jueteng issue because he has not been directly implicated in the controversy.

Reports said Mr. Arroyo was being advised to keep a low profile because he was apparently a magnet for scandals that harmed the President.

RP, Gambia in 3 major agreements (FROM THE OFFICE OF THE PRESS SECRETARY)

MALACANANG, June 21, 2005 - The Philippines and the Republic of Gambia signed today three major agreements reaffirming the two countries’ strong bilateral relations.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and visiting President Yahya A.J.J. Jammeh of the Republic of Gambia witnessed the signing ceremony at Malacanang’s Reception Hall right after their bilateral meeting.

The first is a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on the establishment of a bilateral consultative committee between the Department of State for Foreign Affairs of Gambia and the Department of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines.

Musa G. Bala Gaye, secretary of State for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Gambia, and acting Foreign Affairs Secretary Sonia Cataumber Brady signed the MOU for the Philippine government.

Under the MOU, a consultative committee will be created to discuss issues concerning the bilateral relations between the two countries on regional and global issues of common interest to them.

The accord also substantiates the commitment of the two countries to the New Asia-Africa Strategic Partnership signed by Asian-African Leaders in Jakarta, Indonesia last April.

The second document is a memorandum of agreement (MOA) between the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) and the Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI).

The first private sector agreement between the two countries, the MOA seeks to deepen and expand the economic cooperation and bilateral trade, and maximize the complementation of each other’s economies.

Crisanto S. Frianeza, PCCI secretary general, and Mam Cherno Jallow, GCCI executive secretary, signed the MOA in front of the two leaders.

Another MOU is between the SK General Enterprises Ltd. of Gambia and Century Properties Inc., a developer/contractor of horizontal and vertical projects, and Concorde International Services, a recruitment company.

The SK General Enterprises of Gambia will contract Century Properties for the project management and procurement of construction materials and supplies for infrastructure projects to be undertaken in Gambia while the two companies will contract Concorde International Services for the recruitment of Filipino construction manpower services.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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