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Controversies involving First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo

MANILA, Philippines - No matter how much he deliberately avoids the limelight, First Gentleman (FG) Jose Miguel “Mike" T. Arroyo has received more than his fair share of controversies. Just months after his wife became President eight years ago, Mr. Arroyo has unwittingly been the focus of much attention, after being accused of receiving a P50 million bribe over a company’s telecommunications franchise. And now, with only a year left in his wife’s term, allegations against the First Gentleman have refused to stop. Mr. Arroyo returned to the spotlight following disclosures by Senator Panfilo Lacson of a World Bank report that allegedly implicated the First Gentleman and some politicians in the irregularities in the bidding of the agency-funded road projects. From 2001 to 2009, Mr. Arroyo became the subject of various congressional investigations because of corruption allegations. But the allegations have not been proven. The following is a GMA News Research compilation of the controversies involving Mr. Arroyo: * FG alleged to have received bribe to have presidential veto withdrawn In July 2001, Veronica "Bing" Rodrigo, former correspondence secretary and friend of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, alleged that the First Gentleman received a P50-million bribe for the President to recall her veto of the franchise bills of the Philippine Communication Clearinghouse and APC Wireless Interface Network. Rodrigo retracted her accusations a few days later. * FG accused of using PCSO funds for campaign of certain senatorial candidates In October 2001, Robert Rivero, axed consultant of Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, alleged that First Gentleman Mike Arroyo used PCSO funds in the campaign of certain senatorial candidates and to bribe the media. He claimed that FG Arroyo paid P20.5 million to Bombo Radyo and Radio Mindanao Network. Even though the PCSO and lotto draw did not air in these stations, some commentators aired pro-administration commentaries. The PCSO publicity department denied Rivero's accusations. * FG’s designation as OFW envoy In December 2002, President Arroyo designated Mike Arroyo as an OFW envoy so he could represent her in the countries she could not visit. However, critics assailed Arroyo's announcement when they learned that his activities as OFW envoy could be funded by a proposed overseas workers legal assistance fund. They feared that the Arroyo couple would use the funds for her 2004 campaign. While the President did not recall her husband's designation, the first gentleman voluntarily resigned. * FG accused of maintaining secret bank accounts in the name of Jose Pidal In 2003, Sen. Panfilo Lacson accused Arroyo of maintaining secret bank accounts to launder money from campaign contributions for the 1998 vice presidential bid of President Arroyo. First Gentleman Arroyo denied the allegations. His brother, Ignacio "Iggy" Arroyo took up the cudgels for him and claimed to be "Jose Pidal" before clamming up and invoking his "right to privacy" during a Senate investigation. * FG’s alleged friend is involved in importation of rotten rice Indian trader Kishore Hemlani, allegedly a close friend of First Gentleman Arroyo, also figured that year in a contract involving the importation of 600,000 metric tons of rotten rice worth P9.5 million from India. * FG’s expensive accommodations in a Las Vegas suite In 2005, First Gentleman Arroyo drew criticism for staying in a $20,000-a-night MGM Grand Villa in Las Vegas, Nevada, during a Manny Pacquiao-Erik Morales boxing match. Arroyo’s camp said the accommodation was complimentary and not paid for by public funds. * FG’s alleged receipt of jueteng payola During the same year, witnesses at the Senate hearings on jueteng claimed that First Gentleman Arroyo received protection money for the illegal numbers game. The First Gentleman denied the allegations and left the country momentarily to help "remove distractions and doubts from people’s minds" on President Arroyo's ability to run the government. The Palace, then embattled with both the jueteng and "Hello Garci" controversies, dismissed the accusations against the First Gentleman as mere concoctions by those who wanted to oust the President. * FG’s involvement in the Hello Garci scandal Still in 2005, a Marine brigade commander appeared at a Senate Hearing on the Hello Garci controversy and claimed that First Gentleman Arroyo delivered a huge amount of cash to Mindanao shortly before the 2004 elections. Brig. Gen. Francisco Gudani cited information from an unnamed source that FG Arroyo flew to Mindanao twice in a private helicopter days before the 2004 elections to deliver P500 million in boxes. Gudani, who was detailed in Lanao during the 2004 elections, told senators that he witnessed vote-buying and other election irregularities in his area. * FG’s alleged friend is involved in fertilizer fund scam In 2006, the Senate wrapped up a series of hearings on the fertilizer fund scam and concluded that First Gentleman Arroyo's close friend and fellow Makati Rotarian, agriculture undersecretary Jocelyn “Joc-Joc" Bolante diverted agricultural funds to the 2004 electoral campaign of President Arroyo. * FG’s alleged multi-million dollar German bank account Later that year, then opposition Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano claimed that a member of the Arroyo family maintained a bank account in Germany amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars. First Gentleman Arroyo flew to Germany and secured a certification from the bank to disprove Cayetano's claims. Upon his return, he sought Cayetano's expulsion from Congress. * FG reportedly tells rival to “back off" from national broadband project The testimonies of Jose de Venecia III and Rodolfo Noel Lozada Jr. during the Senate hearings on the national broadband network project linked First Gentleman Arroyo to another multi-million dollar controversy. De Venecia III claimed that FG Arroyo told him to "back off" from the project, which eventually went to Chinese firm ZTE Corp. De Venecia III was a majority shareholder of one of the proponents of the NBN project. Lozada meanwhile claimed that Comelec Chairman Benjamin Abalos phoned "FG" to discuss the NBN project. Lozada also testified that Abalos, de Venecia III, and the First Gentleman met for dinner around the time that the ZTE execs were following up on the project. * FG’s reported ties with construction firm that was blacklisted by the World Bank In January 2009, Sen. Panfilo Lacson linked FG Arroyo to a constructor blacklisted by the World Bank. Citing entries from an appointments book he claimed belonged to FG Arroyo, Sen. Lacson pointed out that the First Gentleman met with Eduardo de Luna of E. C. de Luna Construction Corp. several times. De Luna, who was debarred by World Bank for collusive practice in a national roads project, said in a Senate hearing that he did meet FG Arroyo a few times but denied that he and FG were close. - GMA News Research/GMANews.TV