It wasn’t until after I finished our lunch of homemade chicken inasal with sinamak that I settled down to read today’s newspapers. When I got to Manolo Quezon III’s column entitled “Detached From Reality” and noticed that Marketmanila was mentioned in passing, I figured out why I was getting some rather strange visitor and comment traffic on the blog this morning… My post on GMA’s reported $20,000 meal at Le Cirque got a LOT of hits and page views, and wracked up 100 comments rather quickly during what is typically the slowest period on the blog, Saturday night and all day Sunday. Today I woke up to a couple of hysterical comments, one even calling me and my readers communists, which of course I deemed inappropriate and deleted (yes, I can and will do that on this blog). If there’s one thing I would certainly not be, it would be a communist. Imagine if I had to share my copper fish pans with everyone on an equal basis? All the commenter had to do was read my “About” page to see that it was he/she who would seem ridiculous by labelling me a communist. Really now, outrageously silly, if you ask me. First an elitist, now a communist. Tsk, tsk.
But being mentioned in Manolo’s column did elicit some questions about how to “Do the Math…” and specifically, how I could have suggested that GMA must have probably known about Cory’s passing before she met with Secretary of State Clinton. So here are more details for those of you who were wondering:
– President Corazaon Aquino passed away around 3:18 am on Saturday, 1 August 2009. Because the East Coast of the United States is 12 hours behind, that was 3:18 pm Washington time on Friday afternoon, 31 July. Noynoy Aquino held a quick press conference to announce the loss, and let’s just say that was done at around 3:30-3:40 a.m. in Manila. So the news was out by 4 am Manila time, and with a quick text to the GMA entourage in New York it is VERY LIKELY that they also heard the news by 4 pm Washington time, BEFORE the scheduled 4:30pm meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Surely someone would have alerted the party of the current President that a previous President had already passed away…
– But let’s not leave this to simple logic, timeline analysis and conjecture. On Sunday, August 2, 2009, on page 2 of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, it is written in a report by Gil C. Cabacungan, Jr., reporting from Washington, entitled “GMA orders 10 days of mourning,” and I quote:
“Ms. Arroyo received word of Aquino’s passing a few minutes before the scheduled meeting with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the Willard Hotel at 4:30p.m. Friday” (Washington time).
The article goes further to say, and I quote:
“She was shaken by the news and immediately instructed her staff to verify it while she proceeded to her meeting with Clinton…”
So you see, it isn’t ROCKET SCIENCE to do the numbers and read the press reports and suggest that President Arroyo PROBABLY ALREADY KNEW that former President Aquino HAD passed away. But she must have decided it was not worth mentioning to Secretary of State Clinton during their meeting. Hence, when Secretary Clinton was interviewed AFTER emerging from the meeting and she was obviously UNAWARE that President Aquino had just passed away some 90 minutes beforehand, it was something caught on video and which folks thought rather odd, at the very least… That’s all there is to that part of my post.
As for the Presidential spokesperson and other members of the party, who to me are seeming a bit like a pinoy version of the Keystone Cops, with varying stories that don’t seem to all match, I have one more thing to add. He emphatically states that the President seemed to be trying to save money by flying commercial, but I noticed from the same article in the Inquirer that, and I quote:
“An hour later, Ms. Arroyo, dressed in a gray suit, taped a message on Aquino before proceeding to Andrews Air Force Base for her flight to New York.” A photo in the same article shows her alighting from a rather largish (not learjet type) jet onto the stairs and tarmac at the airport in Newark, New Jersey assisted by the First Gentleman and Hilario Davide. So my question is, what commercial flights take off from Andrews Air Force Base? So it is possible/likely the flight to New York was chartered, and hence the ability to catch a late dinner reservation at Le Cirque that evening. The message that was “taped” before the flight to New York must have been the one calling for a ten day period of national mourning. Hmmm, a lavish dinner seems like an unorthodox way for senior politicians of a country to display they are in mourning for a recently deceased former President, even if reservations at Le Cirque were made weeks in advance…
What is most disappointing about this whole episode is not the lack of consistency, transparency or simple good sense that should have guided everyone involved. Not even the ridiculous opinions expressed by some folks about the quality of interior design at Le Cirque, or that 50 folks rather than 15 were at dinner, including security and secret service. Or not even that others felt the waiter service lacking and possibly unlike fast food restaurants. It is that this quote, from Senator Miriam Santiago in today’s (10 August 2009) Inquirer, actually sounds like the SANEST (READ: NOT CRAZIEST) sound bite about the whole brouhaha:
“”My advice is for them to tell the truth, who went there and how much the dinner cost and then say this will never happen again,” she told dzBB radio. She said there was no need to cover up.”
Is that really so difficult?