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First Draft -Op-ED

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Hi! How's Everybody? Here's the 1st draft of my Op-Ed article. Happy to post this for your comments. Please feel free to post your comments , it's my pleasure to help me improve my draft.

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Lavish Dinners In Times of Recession

The Philippines is expected to enter “outright recession\" this year, the World Bank (WB) said in its latest report, citing heavy trade relations with slowing economies of the United States and Europe. However, the recent US trip of President Arroyo with the lavish dinners in expensive US restaurants shows no indicators of recession. Both New York City’s Le Cirque Restaurant and Washington DC’s Bobby Van’s Steakhouse, the group paid amounting to $20,000 and $15,000, respectively.

This dinner controversy sparked public outrage here in the Philippines when the Filipinos mourn for the great loss of Former President Corazon Aquino, a staunch critic of President Arroyo. The mounting criticism of President Arroyo’s extravagant travel abroad is simply justified as a simple dinner by Malacanang.

The Philippines ranked 5th among the hungry country in the world, with 4 million malnourished children and 52 million Filipinos can’t afford at least three square meals a day. Seven out of ten Filipinos died without medical care due to poverty-related diseases. The million worth dinners of President Arroyo and her entourage is not a simple dinner but a display of her callousness of the people’s hunger amidst global recession.

Palace spokeperson Cerge Remonde further defended Arroyo that the amount is small compare to the billion of dollars the country benefited from her travel abroad. Among those cited by Remonde were the $6.2 billion in “investments and other forms of financial assistance”, as well as “US military assistance and aid for Mindanao”.

No matter what the Arroyo’s cliques reasons are, reality shows that the benefits out of the President’s foreign trips are hardly felt by the Filipino people. Those who are in power benefited much as showed by their ostentation lifestyles. German-based Transparency International in its annual CPU index which measures a country from 0-10 with 0 rating equivalent to absolute corruption, the Philippines garnered a 2.5 rating for 2007, making it one of the most corrupt countries in the world.

An Ilongga Philippine Navy junior officer Lieutenant Senior Grade Nancy Gadian exposed alleged anomalies in the 2007 Balikatan Exercises – a Joint Military Exercises of the Philippines and United States War Against Terror. During the Balikatan 2007 – held from February 1 to March 16 – Gadian headed civil military operations in three advance command posts in the provinces of Zamboanga del Sur, Sulu and Cotabato. Her office was given only P2.3-million fund out of the supposed P46 million budget for the exercise.

As the lavish dinners controversies continue to heighten public clamor , Former Chief of National Economic Administration and Former Senator Ralph Recto, an ally of President Arroyo states “The next president will inherit a bankcrupt government”. While Susana Vargas , Deputy Secretary of Administration and Finance noted that Mrs. Arroyo’s trip to the US cost the taxpayers a total of P19.19 million. In protest of the lavish dinner of the President and her entourage, some 20 members of the militant youth activists stormed Malacanang were met by violent dispersal by the Security Forces. Scores were injured and were arrested. “ The infamous Arroyo dinners have not only left a bad taste in the mouth, they have left people battered and beaten,” said Bayan Secretary- General Renato M. Reyes, Jr., the broad alliance of national democratic organizations calling for the ouster of Gloria Macapagal –Arroyo since 2005.

August 21, while the Arroyo administration continues her corrupt and dictatorial governance, the Filipino people remember this day, the 26th assassination anniversary of Former Senator Benigno “ Ninoy” Aquino, the national figure against the Marcos Dictatorship and President Cory Aquino , his wife catapulted to presidency through people power uprising ending the Marcos dictatorship. Former Senator Ninoy Aquino and Former President Corazon “Cory” Aquino both icons of democracy . Thousands of Filipino wore yellow in memory of Ninoy and Cory and the people power revolution, a symbol not only of their grief but a resolve to continue their struggle against tyranny and corruption. Once more, the Filipinos continue to contribute in the global fight for freedom and democracy###.

South and Central Asia
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