MANILA - The lawyer of President Arroyo has turned the tables on media after his client became the object of heavy criticism over the alleged $20,000 lavish dinner at Le Cirque in New York City.
Atty. Romulo Macalintal said media should not be talking about morals, since media owners themselves should be questioned on the same issue.
The President's lawyer insists media owners should practice morality by rejecting political advertisements since these could be circumventing the law.
"Kayo rin taga media companies, hindi ba yung moral issue is also involved dahil kung alam ninyo na yan ay mali, kung alam nyo na yan ay indirectly campaigning, kung alam na ninyo na yan pala ay imoral, bakit nyo inaadvertise? Why accept their advertisement? Hindi ba bahagi rin kayo ng pagiging immoral? (You in media companies, isn't it also a moral issue if you know it's wrong, if you know it's a form of indirect campaigning, if you already know it is immoral, then why advertise? Why accept the advertisement? Doesn't that also make you immoral?)," Macalintal said in an interview on ANC's Top Story on Wednesday.
Macalintal said media should also pose the same challenge to presidential aspirants who spend millions on their political advertisements when they could also use the money to help the poor.
The filing of candidacies starts November 20 and ends November 30.
Macalintal also hit reports that pegged the dinner tab in Le Cirque, New York of the presidential entourage at $20,000.
"Di ba hindi naman natin alam kung sino talaga nagsasabi na talagang $20,000 ang ginastos? Meron na ba talagang sinabi na ganito talaga? (We don't know who gave the amount of $20,000. Has anyone really mentioned $20,000?)," Macalintal asked.
He added: "Itanong nyo sa kanila (the New York Post) kung ano ang basis sa issue of immorality sapagkat marami naghihirap dito. Kung morality pinaguusapan ninyo, tignan din ninyo ang sarili nyo, sa mga infomercials na sinasabi nating labag sa batas. Kung labag yan, isoli ninyo, sabihin n'yo na 'nagkamali kami, napasama kami sa ilegal na transaksyon.' Ang ABS-CBN, ilang milyon ang kinita, halimbawa. (Why don't you ask the New York Post the basis for bringing up the issue of immorality, given there are many poor Filipinos. If we're talking about morality, you should take a look at yourselves, at the informercials you're running which could be violating the law. If they are in violation, then give back what you earned from airing them, say you made a mistake and was party to an illegal transaction. Take ABS-CBN for example, how much did it earn from the infomercials?)."
Different set of morals
But Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility Board of Trustee Vergel Santos said Macalintal should not be preaching about his own set of morals.
"He cannot impose their own morality and ethics among anybody else, including media. Sino ba ang may sabi na illegal ito, nadeclare na ba itong illegal? (Who said these infomercials were illegal?)," Santos said, also on ANC's Top Story.
"We are going to unnecessary details. Sinabi nya kailangan bang malaman ni Pres. Arroyo kung magkano gagastusin at kung ano kakainin. This government should be sensitive enough and prudent enough to know what they are getting into. (Macalintal said President Arroyo could not have known how much was going to be spent and what they would be eating.)," Santos added.
Santos also said it is perfectly reasonably to raise suspicions over the money spent for the President's New York dinner.
Press Secretary Cerge Remonde had said the bill was shouldered by Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez, who has so far remained mum on the matter.
On Wednesday, the New York Post and the Washington Post both reported yet another expensive dinner the President and her entourage had, this time in Washington.
The U.S. newspapers reported that the meal at the Bobby Van's Steakhouse in the capital cost the party $15,000.
As of posting, the Palace, nor any member of Mrs. Arroyo's entourage had yet to comment on the report. - by Karen Caringal, ANC