AUGUST 9, 2009

Makati Mayor and United Opposition (UNO) president Jejomar C. Binay today said Mrs. Arroyo’s $20,000 dinner tab in an upscale New York restaurant has become “another source of national shame.”

Binay said the US media had largely ignored Mrs. Arroyo’s meeting with US President Barack Obama, but her presence at Le Cirque and the $20,000 price tag – the equivalent of P960,000 – has been widely reported and commented on in newspapers and magazines in the US .

“We can add the pricey New York dinner to the long list of scandals under the Arroyo administration that have given our country shame and embarrassment,” he said.

The international media have previously reported on the Hello Garci election rigging scandal, the fertilizer fund scam, and the NBN-ZTE broadband deal, he noted.

The opposition leader also said the public is not inclined to believe Malacanang’s claim that it did not pay for the dinner because of a “credibility problem.”

“Malacanang officials have been caught so many times lying to the public that no one believes them anymore. And they only have themselves to blame for it,” he said.

Earlier, Binay said the extravagance displayed in New York showed the Arroyo administration’s insensitivity and hypocrisy.

He said the dinner-party, where Mrs. Arroyo was herself reported ordering expensive wine, was held while the nation was in mourning over the death of former president Corazon Aquino.

The extravagant price tag could have also provided some 3,000 families with three square meals a day, he said.

He cited government figures that families on the poverty threshold subsist on P318 a day.

The Social Weather Station (SWS) had reported that 20.3 percent of families, or 3.7 million families, experienced involuntary hunger during the second quarter of 2009, while a 2008 survey by Gallup International said the Philippines currently ranks fifth among 56 countries where hunger is prevalent.

An item in the Food Section of the New York Post dated August 7 2009 said:

“THE economic downturn hasn’t persuaded everyone to pinch pennies. Philippines President Maria Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was at Le Cirque the other night with a large entourage enjoying the good life, even though the former comptroller of her country’s armed services, Carlos Garcia, was found guilty earlier this year of per jury and two of his sons were arrested in the US on bulk cash-smuggling charges. Maca pagal-Arroyo ordered several bottles of very expensive wine, pushing the dinner tab up to $20,000.”


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