Noli: Leave my family alone
() - March 31, 2004 - 12:00am
Administration vice presidential candidate Sen. Noli de Castro pleaded yesterday to his political opponents to spare his family from "dirty politics" as the May 10 election draws near.

"Leave my family out of this. This is dirty politics," said President Arroyo’s running mate, who instead lashed back at his ex-wife, Pacita Torralba (not Maria Betita as earlier reported), for accusing him of being an irresponsible father.

It was Torralba, De Castro said, who abandoned him and their daughter Manueli. Torralba was the senator’s first wife before their marriage was annulled not long after they were wed more than 20 years ago.

"There is no truth to what Torralba said that I did not take care of my child Manueli," the senator said in a statement. "The truth is, I am the one who filed an annulment case against her for abandoning me and our child. She was the one who left and never even checked if her daughter was still alive or doing well."

The opposition Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino (KNP) disowned Torralba’s exposé, saying they never sought her out.

"She voluntarily gave the information to media in Bohol because she lives there," KNP adviser Sen. Edgardo Angara told reporters after the signing of a covenant against the use of public funds in election campaign at Club Filipino in Greenhills, San Juan yesterday.

"I think it’s just a case of a woman who feels she was an abandoned wife," Angara said.

The administration camp believes the "black propaganda" launched by the opposition against De Castro was meant to boost the candidacy of his rival, vice presidential bet Sen. Loren Legarda.

De Castro and Legarda were both broadcast talents of giant network ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corp. for many years before they joined politics. Both were topnotchers in the senatorial race in the last two elections, Legarda in 1998 and De Castro in 2001.

Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (Lakas-CMD) chairman and Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. came to De Castro’s defense, expressing confidence that the senator’s reputation will not be besmirched by Torralba’s accusations.

"His ratings are just too high to be affected by such personal conflict," De Venecia told The STAR, adding that De Castro is enjoying a wide margin over Legarda in the vice presidential race surveys.

De Venecia pointed out the dubious timing of Torralba’s exposé. "Of course, it is highly questionable why she came out only after how many years and why at this time. You would suspect something," he said.

He urged the opposition to refrain from dragging personal conflicts, such as that between Torralba and De Castro, into the political contest.

Torralba has claimed De Castro was "unfit to aspire for the vice presidency" because he finished only second year college, contrary to his claim that he was a commerce graduate.

She accused De Castro of having his diploma and transcript of records forged on C. M. Recto Avenue in Manila, where school records are easily faked.

Torralba first surfaced during a recent campaign sortie of the KNP in Tagbilaran City in Bohol and claimed that she and Manueli were abandoned by the senator.

Manueli readily defended her father as she appealed to her mother to stop making false accusations against him.

Manueli, 29 and now married, disclosed her mother left them when she was only five years old and never returned.

"Have pity, not on my dad, but on me and your grandchildren. We are very happy now, my dad has been a good provider and I could not ask for more," she said.

In a statement, De Castro pointed out court records will reveal that Torralba abandoned their house and got married several times to different men.

Andres, De Castro’s legal counsel, noted that Torralba came up to the senator recently asking for money. She offered De Castro a project proposal for Tagbilaran worth P250,000.

But when this was verified with Torralba’s uncle, incumbent Tagbilaran Mayor Joe Torralba, the latter confirmed it was a "bogus project," according to De Castro’s camp.

The senator claimed he and his secretary had received threats from Torralba after her request was denied. Torralba is a former secretary of the City Association of Barangay Captains.

"She said she will destroy my reputation and I should not be confident that I will win while she is around," De Castro said.

Despite the appeal made by Manueli to her mother and the KNP disowning the exposé, Torralba seemingly refuses to back down.

News releases continued to circulate yesterday with Torralba accusing De Castro this time of being an "abortionist."

"Noli de Castro is so wicked and shameless that he now wants to hide behind our child, whom he tried hard to abort when he got me pregnant at age 16. He’s a liar and an abortionist," Torralba claimed in the release.

Torralba is said to be a former radio talent, known by her nicknames "Magellan" and "BJ Alba."

She accused De Castro of faking their civil wedding "by having someone else sign on her behalf using her radio name Magellan."

According to Torralba, De Castro’s own uncle, a judge in San Juan, refused to marry them because she was underage. She claimed to be only 16 at the time.

"In the fake civil marriage procured by De Castro, Torralba said Noli misrepresented her as being 23 years of age," the release said. They were later married at the Taloto Church in Tagbilaran, Bohol.

"Noli is a person who would use anyone and every available means, no matter how crooked and wicked these are, to get what he wants," Torralba said. "He is now trying to concoct stories about me to fool the public."

She denied trying to extort money from the senator.

"Yes, I once asked him for help for a book project for Tagbilaran, but I never extorted money from him as he claimed," she said. "I am not like him."

Torralba, who is also said to be nicknamed "Baby," disclosed that De Castro forced her to take abortion pills. She reportedly "threw these away discreetly to save" Manueli.

She said De Castro did this because he did not want "to be saddled with a responsibility that could derail his ambition." — With Sheila Crisostomo, Edith Regalado

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