MANILA - Three days before allegedly spending $20,000 for a dinner in a Manhattan restaurant, President Arroyo and her entourage also reportedly spent another $15,000 for dinner at Bobby Van's Steakhouse on 15th Street, Washington DC, a major US daily reported Wednesday.
A report titled "Heartburn Over Two Big Meals" in the Washington Post's Reliable Source column said Mrs. Arroyo and an entourage of about 65 people, including security and food tasters, had dinner at Bobby Van's Steakhouse on 15th Street NW hours after her July 30 meeting with US President Barack Obama.
"The group took over one of the restaurant's private rooms and dined on lobster, steak and fine wines; at the conclusion of the meal, an unidentified woman opened a handbag stuffed with cash, counted out bills and paid the $15,000 tab -- which included a generous tip," the column read.
"The Philippine Embassy did not return calls for comment Tuesday," it added.
The bill of $15,000 roughly translates to about P720,899 based on latest foreign exchange rates (not P720,899,000 as we earlier reported).
Steaks at the popular restaurant are priced anywhere from $38 (P1,830) to $42 (P2,023), according to the Bobby Van's Steakhouse website. Half bottles of red and white wine at the restaurant are priced between $18 (P867) to $60 (P2,890) while the most expensive bottle on the winelist, a Louis Roederer Cristal Reims, is priced at $575 (P27,697).
Arroyo's expensive dinner in Washington is the second to be reported by the US media recently. Last week, the New York Post reported that Arroyo and her entourage dined at Manhattan's Le Cirque on August 2, with the dinner bill amounting to $20,000 or almost P1 million.
Malacañang spokesmen have denied that public funds were used to pay for the dinner. They said it was Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez who paid the bill. Romualdez is the nephew of former First Lady Imelda Marcos.
Akbayan party-list Rep. Walden Bello on Wednesday urged the Office of the Ombudsman to investigate President Arroyo for violating Republic Act 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.
Bello cited Section 4(h) of the law which states that “public officials shall lead modest lives appropriate to their positions and income,” and that “they shall not engage in extravagant or ostentatious displays of wealth."
He added that if Romualdez paid for the dinner, then both Arroyo and Romualdez could be charged with bribery.