MANILA, OCTOBER 16, 2003  (STAR) President Arroyo dared Sen. Panfilo Lacson yesterday to hale her to court if he has evidence to show that she had misused funds from the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO).

"PCSO records are open to the public," she said in a statement before flying to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to attend the leaders’ summit of the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

"The Senate may have access to these records at anytime for purposes of probing any charge of fund abuse. Those grandstanding on this issue should just get the evidence they need and file charges."

Meanwhile, Ignacio Arroyo, the Chief Executive’s brother-in-law who had claimed ownership of the "Jose Pidal" account, asked Makati Regional Trial Court Branch 66 yesterday to rule if he has the right to privacy against unlawful inquiry into his private and business concerns.

In a petition for declaratory relief, Arroyo sought a decision on the following issues:

• Whether or not there is a right to privacy.

• Whether or not he has a right to invoke the right to privacy in Senate committee hearings.

• Whether or not the Senate, in aid of legislation, can compel him to testify and divulge details on essentially private matters.

On the other hand, Sen. Juan Flavier said Mrs. Arroyo must answer the allegations of Lacson that she had redirected PCSO funds to finance "Run, GMA, Run" streamers distributed all over Metro Manila.

"President Arroyo should clarify and respond because these are direct allegations," he said.

"This is so far the most serious allegations... We now see direct allegations made by Senator Lacson against Mrs. Arroyo," Flavier said.

He does not see Lacson’s allegation as mere "political mudslinging," Flavier added.

However, Senate President Franklin Drilon said Lacson must present proof that Mrs. Arroyo ordered or consented to the misuse of PCSO funds.

"The established principle is that when an official performs an act, (it) was done in a regular course and there is a presumption of regularity," he said.

"So, in the absence of proof that the President authorized the use of these funds for political purposes, assuming that it was so used, you must show that the President authorized it. And in the absence of such proof, this is part of political mudslinging at this time," Drilon said. — Marichu Villanueva, Jose Rodel Clapano, Aurea Calica


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