This just in.
To accuse the President of any wrongdoing when she allegedly agreed to an expensive dinner, one must have to prove that it was “manifestly excessive,” Santiago said.
She pointed out that under Republic Act 3019 known as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, “receiving any gift” included the act of accepting directly or indirectly a gift from a person other than her immediate family “even on the occasion of a family celebration, if the value of the gift is under the circumstances manifestly excessive.”
“It does not have to be a lavish dinner. It simply has to be manifestly excessive,” she told reporters.
“There were a lot of them. Now if the President were alone and she ate the food worth P1 million . . ., then that is clearly manifestly excessive,” she said in Filipino.(from Inquirer.net)
The good senator is right. There were indeed several congressmen and other people who dined with the Arroyo couple at the famously luxurious French restaurant. And for the sake of argument, let us believe that it was somebody else who picked up that tab of more or less $20,000. Thus, it may not be possible to charge her and her gang for corruption. However, her presence alone in such an establishment known for its chic and luxuriant appeal to those whose taste buds are accustomed to caviar, foie gras, and expensive wine is tantamount to gross disrespect toward her fellowmen who find it nearly impossible to make both ends meet in this era of global economic crisis.
Of course, every one has the right to eat anywhere he or she may deem fit. Arroyo has the right to satisfy her presidential hunger in any posh restaurant of her choice especially since she can afford it. But that’s the problem: she is the president, the most prominent and powerful individual in the Philippines. Technically, she has betrayed the trust of the poor electorate who voted for her when she chose to pig out at Le Cirque, one of the most expensive restaurants in New York, if not the whole United States.
For argument’s sake, what if we find Mike Arroyo in some classy KTV bar filled with female entertainers, and then Mike would honestly say that he went there because it was a birthday treat to him by college friends, and that he did not even mingle with those female entertainers? Will he still be charged of violating Republic Act 6713 (An Act Establishing A Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees)? Of course, restaurants and girl-filled KTV bars are far different from each other, Not to mention Republic Act 3019 from Republic Act 6713. But I hope the analogy sinks in.
And as far as I’m concerned, Arroyo has just violated Section 4 (h) of Republic Act 6713:
Public officials and employees and their families shall lead modest lives appropriate to their positions and income. They shall not indulge in extravagant or ostentatious display of wealth in any form.
Our country’s best legal minds today may be able to save Le Cirque d’Arroyo. But do they not believe the saying that evil is not forever?
Let us fervently hope that the essence of Senator Santiago’s master’s dissertation which earned her a Master of Arts in Religious Studies has truly rubbed off on her.