MANILA, Philippines ? The purported lavish dinner at the world-class Le Cirque restaurant in New York City was ?excessive? if President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo feasted on it alone, senators said on Tuesday.
But this was not the case, said Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, who noted the presence of several congressmen in that dinner.
To accuse the President of any wrongdoing when she allegedly agreed to an expensive dinner, one must have to prove that it was ?manifestly excessive,? Santiago said.
She pointed out that under Republic Act 3019 known as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, ?receiving any gift? included the act of accepting directly or indirectly a gift from a person other than her immediate family ?even on the occasion of a family celebration, if the value of the gift is under the circumstances manifestly excessive.?
?It does not have to be a lavish dinner. It simply has to be manifestly excessive,? she told reporters.
?There were a lot of them. Now if the President were alone and she ate the food worth P1 million . . ., then that is clearly manifestly excessive,? she said in Filipino.
Senate President Juan Ponce-Enrile, in a separate interview, agreed.
?If it?s only two, three or four persons ? maybe,? he said when asked if the bill allegedly amounted to close to P1 million was ?excessive.?
?But if you have 100 persons, with the prices of food in New York, it is possible. That?s reasonable. It is also possible that it?s unreasonable. You can?t tell,? Enrile said.
Theoretically, Santiago said, the President could be impeached for graft and corruption.
?But there were some representatives present the dinner, and the administration representatives would unite to dismiss an impeachment complaint in the House,? she further said.
A number of impeachment complaints had been filed against Arroyo but were all dismissed by her allies in the House of Representatives.