[PHOTO AT LEFT - TIT FOR TAT: Lawyer Jesus Santos (right) presents to Taguig-Pateros Rep. Allan Peter Cayetano during a press conference at the House of Representatives yesterday a plane ticket for Germany from First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo so they can investigate the Arroyos’ alleged multimillion-dollar account. In turn, Cayetano presented Santos with a photo of an alleged illegal property of the First Family in Caloocan City and other pieces of evidence. - Photo By BOY SANTOS]

MANILA, AUGUST 23, 2006 (STAR) By Jess Diaz - Deputy House Minority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano accepted yesterday the challenge of First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo that they fly to Germany to verify the bank account that the congressman claims the First Family is keeping in that country.

However, Cayetano said he and the President’s husband should go to "BPI (Bank of the Philippine Islands) Perea street branch (Legazpi Village, Makati) first to unlock the Jose Pidal accounts."

"We should also pass by Caloocan City, where the President and her husband own a six-hectare lot, and downtown San Francisco, California, where they own two buildings of residential-commercial apartments. They have failed to declare these properties in their statement of assets and liabilities," he said.

Cayetano made the statement after Jesus Santos, the First Gentleman’s lawyer-spokesman, presented to him a Lufthansa business class ticket for Germany at the House media center in front of media practitioners. Cayetano accepted the ticket but later returned it.

In return, the opposition leader turned over to Santos a waiver to be signed by the President’s husband. In the document, the First Gentleman would waive his right to the confidentiality of his bank accounts, both here and abroad.

Santos accepted the waiver, but when Cayetano had left the media room, the President’s husband’s lawyer dropped the document on the floor and stepped on it several times until newspaper photographers stopped clicking their cameras.

Santos said his client cannot sign the waiver because the accounts have not been established to be existing, and if existent, no proof has been presented that his principal owns them.

Photocopies of the First Gentleman’s ticket and that of the Taguig-Pateros congressman were to furnished reporters.

The two are to depart for Frankfurt Thursday, fly to Munich on Friday and return to Manila via Frankfurt on Saturday. The tickets cost $4,123 each.

Santos presented the tickets to the media before delivering the ticket for Cayetano to Nograles.

"Whether Rep. Cayetano joins us or not, we will go to Germany with media people to prove that he is lying. Together with media, we will look for the account in HypoVereinsbank, which Mr. Cayetano says contains millions of dollars owned by the First Family," the First Gentleman’s spokesman said.

He said with the ticket, the opposition leader "cannot say that he had not been notified by the First Gentleman of the trip, or was not given the chance to prove his lies against Mr. Arroyo."

During the impeachment proceedings last Wednesday, Cayetano referred to a local bank account that he claimed contains "hundreds of millions of pesos" and a German bank account holding "hundreds of millions of dollars — not pesos."

He indicated that the First Family owns both accounts, though he did not name names.

The Jose Pidal accounts had been attributed in late 2003 to the President’s husband by opposition Sen. Panfilo Lacson in his now famous Jose Pidal-Incredible Hulk exposé.

In his three-part exposé, Lacson accused the First Gentleman of hiding some P260 million in secret bank deposits using the false name Jose Pidal and Vicky Toh, Mr. Arroyo’s secretary, and her brother Tomas, as dummies. The President’s husband and the Tohs denied the allegation.

Lacson presented bank statements as evidence of the deposits in the BPI and Union Bank branches on Perea St., not far from the LTA building that the Arroyo family owns, but the banks refused to confirm or deny the accounts.

Exactly eight days after the Lacson revelations, the First Gentleman’s brother Jose Ignacio or Iggy came out in the open to own the Jose Pidal accounts. But when the Senate investigated him, Iggy clammed up, invoking his right to privacy more than 20 times. Iggy would later run for and win as congressman in Negros Occidental.

Sen. Joker Arroyo, chairman of the Blue Ribbon Committee that inquired into the Pidal accounts, refused to continue with the investigation unless Lacson presented proof that part of the deposits was taxpayers’ money. The inquiry is still hanging.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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