June 15, 2006 (STAR) President Arroyo’s net worth, as declared in her latest statement of assets and liabilities (SAL), is understated, Rep. Joel Virador of the party-list group Bayan Muna said yesterday.

He said Mrs. Arroyo’s SAL did not include the First Couple’s sprawling family residence in La Vista, an affluent subdivision in Quezon City, and farms that First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo allegedly owns in Negros Occidental.

It also failed to include the Makati building where the President’s husband holds office, he said.

He added that the President’s SAL should include assets owned by the First Gentleman.

In her latest SAL filed with the Office of the Ombudsman, Mrs. Arroyo declared her net worth to be P79.3 million, nearly P13 million more than the P66.7 million she reported when she assumed office in 2001.

The bulk of her and her husband’s assets — more than P55 million — is in the form of "cash on hand" and "cash in banks."

Among the properties she listed were a house and lot in Baguio, a residential lot in Antipolo, a commercial lot in Tayabas, Quezon, and "raw land" in Coron town, a favorite tourist destination in Palawan.

The net worth of the Arroyos living in Malacañang, however, was less than a third of the wealth of another Arroyo — Jose Ignacio or Iggy, the First Gentleman’s congressman brother.

Iggy Arroyo, who represents the fifth district of Negros Occidental, is the second richest member of the House of Representatives, with a net worth of P287.4 million.

In late 2003, Iggy owned up to the controversial "Jose Pidal" secret bank accounts that opposition Sen. Panfilo Lacson claimed belonged to the President’s husband.

The accounts held as much as P260 million, according to Lacson.

Appearing before senators, the First Gentleman said it was younger brother Iggy who owned the accounts.

When it was Iggy’s turn to take the witness stand, he clammed up and invoked his "right to privacy."

In the course of that controversy, Sen. Sergio Osmeña exposed two residential-commercial buildings in downtown San Francisco, California, which he said were purchased by then Sen. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and husband Jose Miguel in 1992.

The President’s husband admitted the transaction, but said they acquired the assets for his brother Iggy Arroyo.

Osmeña, who said he knew Iggy from their childhood days in Bacolod City, claimed the First Gentleman’s brother did not have the financial capacity to acquire the two buildings, which were worth millions of dollars. — Jess Diaz

PGMA seeks views of people in countryside on various gov't development plans for 2007

Malacanang, (Office of the Press Secretary) President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo flies to Cauayan, Isabela tomorrow (Friday) to preside over the first of four out-of-town Cabinet meetings in preparation for her State of the Nation Address (SONA) when Congress opens on July 24.

Press Secretary and concurrent Presidential Spokesperson Ignacio R. Bunye said the President is reaching out to the people and regional leaders to get their views and perspectives on various phases of development planning in their respective areas.

He said the out-of-town Cabinet meetings will give local leaders and development planners, notably officials of local government units (LGUs), regional development councils (RDCs) and other stakeholders the opportunity to interact with the President and members of the Cabinet.

The multi-regional groups are composed of members of RDC executive committees, governors and mayors.

Bunye said that through the out-of-town Cabinet meetings government planners would be able to acquire firsthand, vital development inputs needed to revitalize investment and development blueprints from a supra-regional perspective.

The Cabinet findings will be inputted in the President’s SONA.

In a statement Wednesday, Cabinet Secretary Ricardo Saludo said members of RDCs, LGU officials and various stakeholders from North Luzon will attend the Cabinet meeting in Cauayan.

The meeting will focus on intensive planning, monitoring and fine-tuning of development programs and projects in their regions, he added.

Saludo said the multi-regional group meeting for Metro Luzon will be attended by representatives from Regions 3, 4A and the national capital region (NCR); the Central Philippines, Regions 4-B, 5-8; and Mindanao, Regions 9-13 and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

The output of the discussions will be the basis of strategic thrusts and priority undertakings to be presented to the President for possible inclusion in her SONA and the proposed 2007 national budget, as well as LGU development and spending plans, Saludo said.

"This is unprecedented, not just in terms of Cabinet meetings, but in development planning in the country," he said.

"The four enlarged regional groupings will offer RDCs a larger canvass for their visions of progress and advancement. We hope this will generate excitement and inspiration for vigorous development performance and cooperation nationwide," Saludo added.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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