Romualdez evades media hungry for dinner info

by Carmela Fonbuena,

Posted at Aug 11 2009 08:43 PM | Updated as of Aug 12 2009 06:32 AM

MANILA - Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, the man who allegedly paid for the controversial P1 million dinner of President Gloria Arroyo and her entourage in the upscale New York restaurant, Le Cirque, showed up at the House of Representatives for Tuesday's plenary session.

But the nephew of Imelda Marcos—son of Benjamin “Kokoy” Romualdez—was tight-lipped. He tried to evade reporters, many of whom have been trying to reach him since the controversy broke out last Saturday.

On their first attempt, reporters asked the House security personnel to relay their interview request. Only congressmen and security personnel are allowed at the plenary hall when session is ongoing. But congressmen may approach reporters at designated areas to give interviews.

Martinez, who was in a conversation with President Arroyo's brother-in-law, Negros Occidental Rep. Ignacio Arroyo, just waved to the media, but did not approach reporters.

When the session was suspended, Romualdez went to the “Congressmen's Lounge,” where reporters are also not allowed.

Romualdez stayed at the session hall for less than an hour and then left.

Reporters caught up with him on his way to the parking lot and began asking him questions, but Romualdez just put his forefinger vertically on his lips.

Not at Le Cirque?

Curiously, other solons who joined President Arroyo in her working visit to the U.S. denied the dinner was at Le Cirque.

Occidental Mindoro Rep. Amelita Villarosa said they didn't eat at Le Cirque, and that the food was not that expensive.

“Hindi Le Cirque yun. Parang ano nga, Wolfgang. It was the last dinner before we left New York. The president was there. It was not expensive. The steak was only around US$20,” she said.

Batangas Rep. Hermilando Mandanas denied it, too.

“I was in the dinner on August 2, 2009 with President Arroyo from 8 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. It was not at Le Cirque. There was no champagne, no caviar, etc. I don't know who paid and how much,” he said.

“I have never been at Le Cirque. The first time I learned about it was from the Philippine Daily Inquirer. Baka kuryente yan, but then again I am surprised Secretary Remonde let it pass,” Mandanas added.

Remonde has admitted the presidential entourage had dinner at Le Cirque, but denied it was lavish.

Marikina Rep. Del De Guzman also said he never ate at Le Cirque. “I ate spaghetti in a different restaurant. It's not in Le Cirque,” he said.

Pangasinan Rep. Rachel Arenas would not talk about the dinner or whether she was there. “Kayo naman. Talk to Martin,” she told reporters.

Mountain out of a molehill

Meanwhile, House Speaker Prospero Nograles said it's time to put the issue to rest.

“This issue about the alleged lavish dinner in New York is making a mountain out of a molehill. This issue has been exhaustively talked about, and Malacañang has already explained the President's side. Let’s stop beating a dead horse and let’s move on,” he said.

“I just hope that this issue will not sidetrack the President from accomplishing her socio-economic and infrastructure development programs during the remainder of her term until 2010. Further, that this won't take the gains achieved by our visit to Washington and the fruitful dialogues we conducted with our American counterparts. Let's put this issue to rest,” he added.

Nograles was not in the controversial dinner. He said he had to give a speech at the ASEAN Parliamentary Assembly in Thailand. -- by Carmela Fonbuena,