CONFLICTING STATEMENTS ON ARROYO’S COLOMBIA SIDE TRIP ONLY DEEPEN THE MYSTERY – BINAY

PRESS RELEASE

25 JUNE 2009

REF: JOEY SALGADO

Makati Mayor and United Opposition (UNO) president Jejomar C. Binay said Malacanang’s “conflicting statements” only deepen the mystery behind Mrs. Arroyo’s unscheduled detour to Colombia .

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita had said the side trip was kept confidential for security reasons while Press Secretary Cerge Remonde described it as a “technical stop.”

“We have a situation where two Palace officials issued conflicting statements about one event. The more they try to explain Mrs. Arroyo’s side trip to Colombia , the deeper the hole they dig for their boss,” he said.

The opposition leader noted that Ermita himself had admitted not knowing about the detour to Cartagena , Colombia en route to Brazil . Mrs. Arroyo was reportedly accompanied only by members of her family.

“When the Executive Secretary and the Department of Foreign Affairs are unaware of the whereabouts of the President, some answers should be forthcoming,” he said.

On the other hand, Remonde’s claim that Mrs. Arroyo’s plane made a “technical stop” in Colombia has been debunked by people knowledgeable about aviation.

“Describing the Cartagena detour as a private trip will not wash because Mrs. Arroyo and her family are traveling on taxpayers’ expense. The public deserves to know the reason for the side trip, as well as other side trips to Dubai ,” he said.

Binay said the side trip has stirred all sorts of speculation, including reports circulating that the Cartagena visit could be linked to a possible business transaction in adjacent Panama , an offshore banking haven considered as the Switzerland of Latin America.

The opposition leader said such speculations are fuelled by the lack of transparency and the attempts by Malacanang to evade the issue.

“Malacanang has always been in the habit of spinning lies and telling half-truths, and their attempt to explain away the Colombia side trip is just a recent example. And yet they always cry foul when speculations begin to circulate,” he said.

“Until a complete accounting is made, the public will continue to speculate as to the real motive behind her private visits to such destinations as Dubai , and now Cartagena ,” he added.

The opposition leader had said the costs of these foreign trips to the taxpayers have not been fully disclosed, and in view of the economic crisis, needs to be justified in terms of concrete investments and financial aid.

“When millions of Filipinos are hungry and jobless, it would be hard to justify the jet-setting ways of a national leader who brings relatives, nannies, and personal stylists to foreign countries, not to mention scores of political allies and their families,” he said.

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