Lapid says $50,000 for wife’s bone ailment
PORAC, Pampanga, Philippines—The $50,000 that Senator Lito Lapid’s wife supposedly tried to smuggle into the United States last year was meant for medical treatment to cure her bone ailment, according to the senator.
Lapid on Friday said his wife Marissa was afflicted with the same ailment that had debilitated former President and now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo but that he did not know what it was called.
Arroyo, who suffers from a degenerative bone disorder, underwent spine surgery in July 2011 for cervical spondylosis. She underwent two more operations the following month which her doctors said aggravates her hypoparathyroidism.
“[Marissa] has had an operation for the pains she has been experiencing on her neck and spine. Her sickness is the same as that of (Arroyo’s). Last year in Baguio City, she had a mild stroke. She was really seeking medical help,” Lapid told the Inquirer by phone, speaking in Kapampangan.
He disclosed Marissa’s state of health to dispel reports, which quoted his wife as saying the money she allegedly smuggled into the US was intended to buy them a house.
“We’re not buying a house. That amount would not be enough. We did want to buy one but we want our children to pay their shares too,” the senator said. .
American authorities arrested Marissa, 54, for a 2011 offense when she flew to Las Vegas, Nevada, on Jan. 15.
According to the account supplied by Lapid’s camp, Marissa entered the United States in November 2011 carrying $50,000, which violated American travel regulations.
US laws allow foreigners to carry up to $10,000 in cash. When they exceed this amount, foreigners must declare the money they carry before customs authorities, which Marissa failed to do.
Marissa had P2.1 million (based on Friday’ exchange rates) with her when she was nabbed by law enforcers.
She was later released on bail.
However, she managed to leave the US before an American court could detain her to stand trial for the offense.
Lapid said Marissa was not aware the case against her had prospered until she flew back to the US on Jan. 15. She was immediately detained on the strength of the bench warrant.
Lapid also called as “untrue” reports that he and his wife travel to Las Vegas to socialize or gamble. “We stay with a friend Edgar Balagtas or with my mother,” he added.
Lapid, one of the senator-judges in the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona, said he was not taking a leave to be by his wife.
He married Marissa while he was still a movie stuntman. In Porac, she was known to have stuck with him despite rumored flings with some of his leading ladies in action movies.
They have four children, including Mark Lapid, who served as governor of Pampanga and who now heads the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority of the Department of Tourism.
“First, there’s a job to do and then my visa [to the United States] has expired,” the senator said.
“I’m sad. She had no intention to lie to authorities. She was just nervous,” he added.
Like the senator, Marissa did not pursue college after graduating from high school.
Their youngest son Maynard, 27, an American citizen, has been assisting his mother, Lapid said
The senator said he has not been able to talk to his wife by telephone for days now because her American lawyer, Eliot Krieger, had directed Marissa to refrain from accepting calls.
Lapid said they did talk on Jan. 15. He said Marissa mumbled, “Sorry, Jo.” Jo is their mutual term of endearment.
He said he has asked the Department of Foreign Affairs, through Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario, to extend help to Marissa like it does to Filipinos in distress overseas.