MANILA, Philippines?Unknown to many, President Macapagal-Arroyo and the rest of the first family quietly moved out of their official residence last Sunday, with still 17 days to go before President-elect Benigno Aquino III officially takes over as head of state.
Since then, they have been staying in their residence at La Vista Subdivision in Quezon City and go to the Palace only to attend official functions, according to First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo.
?We?ve packed our bags. We?re not here anymore,? he told reporters after gracing a book launch and a ceremony involving the ?Bagong Doktor Para Sa Bayan? program of his FG Foundation Inc. at the ceremonial hall. ?We are happy to leave Malacañang.?
Saying it was his last public appearance as first gentleman, Arroyo blasted media for their ?very unfair? treatment of him and his wife during the past nine years.
Launched at the Palace were two coffee table books, one of which contained a chapter devoted to ?setting the record straight? on some nasty controversies that hounded the First Gentleman.
Titled ?The First,? the 176-page book contains a chapter ?where I set the record straight on all the malicious allegations hurled against me,? Arroyo said in his speech.
?Being the innately private person that the First Gentleman is, he has learned to roll with the punches at the right moments and deal with unflattering accusations with grace and patience, even choosing oftentimes not to dignify false charges with a reply,? says a prefatory statement in the book. "There?s a time and place for setting the record straight, and this book is one of them.?
The book tackles issues such as his alleged involvement in the $328-million National Broadband Network deal, the fertilizer fund scam, and fraudulent activities in the 2004 elections.
Asked if media treated him fairly, he replied, ?No, very unfair.?
?The last nine years, I think it was very unfair the way GMA was treated,? he said. ?Her achievements were not highlighted. People don?t know about her achievements and yet the country did not go to any recession. The country did well, but people don?t seem to know that.?
The First Couple could face prosecution should incoming President Aquino make good on his campaign promise to investigate all unresolved controversies under the present administration.
But Arroyo appeared unfazed, saying such investigation would produce nothing against his wife because ?there?s nothing that she did that?s bad.? He said he could only hope for fair treatment if the probe got under way.
?(If) that?s what he (Aquino) wants, what can we do?? he said. ?He should unite the country instead of dividing it. We are trying our best to unite the country. Maybe he thinks he?s still the president of the opposition. He forgot that he will be the president of all the Filipinos already.?
After the Palace affair, Arroyo went to see his confessor, Fr. Joseph Lu, assistance pastor at the adjacent St. Jude Parish.
?I think he is (at) peace with himself,? the priest said in response to a question about the First Gentleman?s mood during confession.
He added: ?He regularly comes for confession and he?s sincere?. I believe in his sincerity. Anyway, I?m a priest. I don?t judge things. I am different from media people?. I don?t judge him from (the) media side. I?m not saying (the) media side (is) wrong, but in confession, it is between him and God.?