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Of Profligacy And Lack Of Proportion : The Le Cirque Brouhaha (4th Update)

August 9, 2009

malacanang le circue montage

Malacanang is clueless.

President Arroyo’s media ‘specialists’ are riled by what they see as unfair and biased reports, and strident commentary about that pre-departure “it was not a party but only lunch” visit of the 30-strong presidential retinue to New York’s ritzy Le Cirque resto where the group racked up a $20,000.

UPDATE:

Press Secretary Remonded is now being quoted as insisting that government money was indeed used in the event at Le Cirque.

http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/nation/08/09/09/report-arroyos-ny-dinner-exaggerated-palace

2nd UPDATE:

Press Secretary Cerge Remonde is now being reported as saying the following:

Not a single centavo of taxpayers’ money was spent for that dinner. We will ask the deputy executive secretary for finance and administration to release this week a financial statement on all expenses for the visit.

The report was grossly exaggerated, really exaggerated. That’s what you call agitation propaganda to anger the people.“[Bagong Alyansang Makabayan ] will never cease from spreading agitation propaganda against the administration of President Arroyo or any administration for that matter for as long as that administration is not headed by a communist president.

(Contrary to the New York Post report) the dinner was a “simple” one, and had been hosted by Leyte Representative Martin Romualdez.What we had in New York was a simple, late night dinner because it was already late at night when we arrived there from Washington DC and of course, we were all hungry.

Our group settled only in two tables and ordered a “set” meal consisting of soup, salad, main course, drinks, and coffee or tea. There was no truth to the report that many different types of champagne and fancy food items were ordered.

Ok, Mr. Secretary let’s await that report but the observation stands that the Palace refuses cannot, they refuse or is simply vacuously-inclined in failing to understand just where that public rebrobation is coming from.

Remonde is essentially saying that we take his word as gospel truth.

Will the good congressman from Leyte show the receipts from Le Cirque or will we be told that’s “privileged information”?

http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/nation/08/09/09/report-arroyos-ny-dinner-exaggerated-palace

There has even been word attributed to supposedly responsible people in Malacanang Press Office saying detractors are simply “inggit” (jealous).

WTF!!

They cannot, they refuse or are simply vacuously-inclined in failing to understand just where that public rebrobation is coming from.

Here’s the simpler but succinct view of the Philippine Daily Inquirer in its editorial this Sunday:

SOMETIMES all people want is a sense of proportion. When our officials lose that sense of proportion because of hubris, then there’s hell to pay.
President Macapagal-Arroyo enjoins the nation to mourn the death of Cory Aquino, then celebrates her wedding anniversary with up to 30 legislators, their families, staff, some Cabinet officials and various hangers-on, allies from FILUSA (Filipinos International of the USA) – and naturally the country will recoil in disgust at the $20,000 (nearly P1 million) bill that got New York gossip columns abuzz over the profligacy of a Third World politician.

http://opinion.inquirer.net/inquireropinion/editorial/view/20090809-219365/Disreputable

The latest personality to take the cudgels for the presidential dinner delegation is Congressman Danilo Suazrez of Quezon province:

I don’t know why they are making such a big deal, it’s New York where everything is more expensive than Manila. We were more than 50 in our group, the President’s security and the secret service joined us. We had been invited for dinner by Rep. Ferdinand Romualdez’s brother, a well-established architect in New York who lives at the Hamptons but the summer resort’s yacht club butwas full.

We decided to move instead to Le Cirque. There is nothing to apologize for the dinner because I would have done the same since it was meant to celebrate the wedding anniversary of the First Couple.

I planned to do the same, maybe next time.

My opening should now be revised.

They are not clueless. CALLOUS IS MORE LIKE IT!!!

4th Update

This update comes in the wake of the phone interview Press Secretary Cerge Remonde had several minutes back with Anthony Taberna of ABS-CBN.

Mr. Remonde bristled as he lambasted those he said “are making these exaggerated and unfair reports without knowing the truth.”

He restated Malacanang’s earlier assertion that the event at Le Cirque “was just a simple dinner were we had a set menu and none of the reported caviar or expensive wines.”

But I was struck by this parting shot he made:

Alangan naman pakainin natin si Presidente sa isa doon na hotdog stand sa New York.

I honestly want to take his word for it having known Cerge from way back the early 90’s, 1991 to be precise when we travelled to the U.S. together as fellows of the U.S. International Visitors Programs.

I consider Secretary Cerge a professional journalist who holds to the highest ethical standards.

Having said this, let me share the statement made by Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago about that dinner event:

(It’s) outlandish that people from a developing country should rack up a bill for P1 million. It is too excessive for the circumstances of the country. Nagulat ako… dahil sa napakamahal na restaurant. Mahal na nga ang lahat sa New York, dun pa sa isa sa pinakamahal. Di dapat yun ang piniling lugar, kundi mas mura-mura naman. (I was surprised that the dinner was held there. Everything is expensive in New York, but they had the dinner at one of the most expensive restaurants. They should have chosen a cheaper place instead.) While the delegation was having the dinner at the plush restaurant.

I had dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant. “Ten dollars ($10) lang, may kanin na, may ulam ka pa (For only $10, you can already get a meal with rice and viand). Part of the $20,000 bill “is really the prestige and for the privilege of seeing and being seen.

Ayaw ko ng ganoon. I feel very uncomfortable, di ako mahilig magmake-up, mag-jewelry pa ako (I don’t like that. I feel very uncomfortable wearing make-up and jewelry) . Masungit na ako pag sa oras na ganiyan eh (I’ll get cranky by that time).

Si Senator Lito sabi niya, grabe naman itong restaurant na eto, katagal tagal dumating ng order (He said, ‘This is too much…it takes too long for the food to come). Lapid pointed out to protocol officers that it took time to serve the meal because waiters would change plates and silverware every course. That’s why he did not like the French restaurant.

That was Sen. Santiago’s reply in an interview with DZBB radio yesterday.

Today she appeared to temper her view:

I don’t think that we should make a big fuss out of it. It was a mistake in good faith; nobody walks deliberately into a trap. It was a trap borne by circumstances.

It could have been avoided but it wasn’t, so we should just accept our mistakes. It is true that $20,000 in New York is not very much with the standards of the rich and famous there, but in a developing country like the Philippines, that is a whole big political universe by itself: one million pesos.

I don’t think that we should make a big fuss out of it. It was a mistake in good faith; nobody walks deliberately into a trap. It was a trap borne by circumstances. It could have been avoided but it wasn’t, so we should just accept our mistakes.

It is true that $20,000 in New York is not very much with the standards of the rich and famous there, but in a developing country like the Philippines, that is a whole big political universe by itself: one million pesos.

I leave it to the public to reflect on what lessons can and should be drawn from this episode.

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