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Oct 04th
Home Columns JGL Eye $10K (.5-Million Pesos) Wasted in PGMA’S Non-visit in Chicago?
$10K (.5-Million Pesos) Wasted in PGMA’S Non-visit in Chicago? PDF Print E-mail
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Columns - JGL Eye
Written by Joseph G. Lariosa   
Thursday, 20 August 2009 09:56


By Joseph G. Lariosa


C HICAGO, Illinois (JGLi) – The Philippine Consulate in the Midwest in Chicago, Illinois, was once the most-coveted diplomatic mission in the United States because it was the least visited by Philippine Presidents.


Not anymore.


Filipino diplomats might no longer be thrilled to have Chicago as their mission now that it is getting to become a political-power center.


It has been a tradition by Philippine Presidents that they only take a detour to certain cities from to time other than the usual destination of Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York or Washington, D.C.


Chicago is hardly part of a presidential itinerary. 


Philippine Commonwealth President Manuel Quezon visited New Orleans, Louisiana, because it has a big presence of Filipinos.


The first time a Philippine President visited Chicago was in 1966 when Ferdinand Marcos was to be conferred an honorary degree by University of Michigan on his way to speak before the Joint Session of the U.S. Congress. 


It would be followed in 1993 by President Fidel V. Ramos and President Joseph Estrada in 2000. 


During the last seven years that she was in office, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo had visited Chicago twice. Her third scheduled visit to the Windy City last month was not a charm as she cancelled it in deference to the death of former President Cory Aquino. 


When she came to Chicago in 2002, she spoke before the Economic Club of Chicago after attending a mass at a Chicago Catholic church. But she never held a press conference in her 2002 and last year's visits.


But her third non-visit may yet go down as her most controversial. 


If her expensive dinners in Washington, D.C., and in New York stirred firestorms of debate, nobody could imagine that her non-visit in Chicago would not merit closer scrutiny. 


In her supposed third visit to Chicago, Mrs. Arroyo was scheduled to be luncheon speaker before 200 Filipino leaders at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare hotel on August 3 instead of cooling her heels at the airport for three hours. After her speech, she was to take a connecting flight to San Francisco, California.


But because she was a no-show in Chicago, the entire event was cancelled.




W hen I asked Midwest’s Chicago Filipino Consul Bob Bernardo if the Consulate “paid a non-refundable deposit for the hotel,” he demurred, saying he had “no idea of this at all.” I called the Hyatt Regency O’Hare hotel reservation if it could tell me the amount the Philippine Consulate paid the hotel. I was told the matter is confidential.


So, I called again the Hyatt Regency O’Hare hotel reservation staff. I pretended to place banquet reservation for 200 people under a less than two-week reservation arrangement. I asked how much I should deposit. 


I was told that if the reservation were placed in less than two weeks, the hotel would be asking a 100 percent payment to lock in the hotel booking.


If the per plate cost was $50, the Filipino taxpayers just shelled out a cool $10,000 (about half a million pesos) to a luncheon event where nobody even tasted the food because Mrs. Arroyo cancelled her luncheon engagement.


If I were President Arroyo, I would have sent her Press Secretary and Spokesman Cerge Remonde and other Cabinet officials to speak before the Filipino community leaders on her behalf. Mr. Remonde and company could even hold a press conference so they can give the community leaders updates on Philippine events. Or she could have asked Midwest Consul General Blesila C. Cabrera to read the speech for her. 


It was just a huge waste.


Perhaps, President Arroyo should have just encouraged other organizations to hold a fellowship meeting in that hotel and partake of the food that was already paid in advance, suggested my friend, Mr. Marlon L. Pecson.


That’s why there should always be back-up plan or “plan B” for every activity.




If the Commission on Audit or the Ombudsman does not include this non-visit in its investigation, the Philippine Congress should at least conduct a blue-ribbon investigation of this wasteful spending in aid of legislation so that this same thing will not happen again.


I learned Mrs. Arroyo and her entourage spent more than 37-million pesos ($740,000) in their six-day stay in the U.S., according to GMA News’ “24 Oras.”


In Washington, D.C., her group spent $15,000 (750,000 pesos) when they dined at Bobby Van’s Steakhouse, on lobster, steak and find wines. In New York, Mrs. Arroyo’s entourage spent $20,000 (about one million pesos) for a dinner at Le Cirque French restaurant.


President Arroyo’s Stop Over in Guam


I don’t have information about the presidential leg of the trip to San Francisco, California. But in Guam, Filipino Consul General Olivia V. Palala, emailed me, saying, “In the case of Guam, there was no reception planned (for Mrs. Arroyo) to meet with the members of the Filipino community, considering that she was only "stopping over" for a total of about 8 1/2 hours, and arriving at 3:00 in the morning.  The only activity planned during her very short stay in Guam was a "brunch" (breakfast cum lunch), which would have enabled her to meet with some local businessmen in the island, and some personal friends, totaling at most 25, including the President.


“Since we received notice of the cancellation of the Guam leg early enough, that is, on the afternoon of August 1 itself, where the President's visit was, at that time, expected to be on 5 August still, we therefore had enough time to cancel whatever arrangements we had made in advance. About the only expense the Philippine government made for the visit was the expenses incurred by the Presidential advance team and the supplies and materials purchased ahead and needed for the visit.” ( # # #


Last Updated on Thursday, 20 August 2009 10:08
Comments (2)
1 Friday, 21 August 2009 09:31

I've just read your story on GMA's "wasted" visit to Chicago. It's a nicely-done, well-written story. No clutters. Easy to read and I enjoyed it.

Okay ngarud, take care now.

2 Friday, 21 August 2009 12:45
Hi, JJ:

Thanks for reading my column.
I also read your column on "Tita Cory, the Filipino Uncanonized Saint: A Dissenting Opinion."
It was nice piece because you were "objective" in your treatment because you were writing it as part of the "Third Party."
I also agree with your "dissenting opinion." Not only because she was "unforgiving" to the Marcoses (although I don't blame her if we go by the doctrine of Truman that the "buck stops" with him as president if any bad thing happens under his watch) but she failed to act when tenants of her hacienda were trying to claim their shares of her land under land reform.
If she did, I am sure "Ate Glo" (Arroyo) will listen to her plea to step down from Malacanang!
Let's sip to your Kapeng Barako!

Joseph G. Lariosa
Chicago, Illinois

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