FG to accusers: Prove it in court

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — FIRST Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo yesterday challenged his accusers to file the appropriate charges against him in the proper forum if they have the evidence to prove his guilt.

In a press statement after he was excused by the Senate from attending the Senate probe on the World Bank fund mess, the First Gentleman reiterated his denial on the involvement in the alleged bid rigging in the World Bank road projects in the country.

Mr. Arroyo reiterated his request that the available evidence against him should be examined with a “modicum of care and circumspection before public accusations of crimes are made.”

He said as a citizen of the Republic, the Constitution protects his “many inalienable rights.”

He said it is his right to confront witnesses “face to face who are not like shadows hiding behind an incomplete, unofficial ‘Report’; to be presumed innocent; and be left alone absent evidence of wrong doing.”

Mr. Arroyo admitted meeting Eduardo de Luna — the sole proprietor of EC de Luna Construction Corp. — but denied that they are close.

“I, have neither had, nor do I presently have, any business dealings with him or his construction outfit. I do not even remember how many times we have met,” Mr. Arroyo said.

He also described as outrageous the insinuation that P70 million was delivered to him in his office at the LTA building and that his alleged meeting with Japanese contractor Tomato Suzuka.

Lacson dared to get enough proof.

“Gather enough evidence first, please, before you talk the next time.”

A nationwide federation of non-government organizations aired this appeal to Sen. Panfilo Lacson yesterday as the solon failed to present any solid proof of his allegations that First Gentleman Mike Arroyo is involved in bidding anomalies for World Bank-funded projects.

The Balikatan People’s Alliance said Lacson’s move to skip the Senate hearing on the alleged fraud even strengthened impressions that all the accusations he had made against Mr. Arroyo and several other people were only for media mileage.

“Especially now that the representative of the Japanese contractor whom Sen. Lacson claimed were roughly and directly solicited for bribes allegedly by the First Gentleman and former Sen. Robert Barbers categorically denied the incident yesterday in the Senate,” Balikatan Chair Louie Balbago said.

Balbago pointed out that the hearing was the best chance for those accused by Lacson to confront the senator on his sweeping claims against them in media.

“After maligning the accused in media for several successive days, it would have been but fair for Sen. Lacson to allow them to defend themselves in his presence.

“But Mr. Lacson proceeded instead to a speaking engagement before the accused could be given a chance to speak, leaving the accused hanging in the air to clear themselves of the mud he had cast on their persons,” Balbago said.

If Lacson will say that he was only quoting a purported World Bank report, then Balbago said the solon should not have even talked about it in the first place since he did not have any concrete proof.

Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago virtually cleared Arroyo of involvement in the WB road scam. “So far there’s no evidence against him,” said Santiago but her committee will decide first when would be the next hearing.