By Fe ZamoraInquirer Last updated 07:43pm (Mla time) 10/22/2007
MANILA, Philippines -- Local government executives who had breakfast with President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on October 11 will be sent letters by civil society groups asking them, "Nakatanggap ka ba?" (Did you receive money?) and, "Anong gagawin mo?" (What will you do with it?).
The questions were designed "to prick their conscience," said Vicente Romano III, a convenor of the Black and White Movement, which has called for Arroyo's resignation.
"This is clearly a moral crisis," Romano said of the reported distribution of cash gifts, as much as half a million pesos to each government official who attended the meeting called by Arroyo in the Palace the other week, just as a new impeachment complaint was filed against her.
Romano led members of civil society groups in a consultative forum on what to do in the midst of this new crisis facing the Arroyo administration.
The multi-sectoral Black and White Movement also intensified its pressure for Arroyo to resign by calling for a boycott of companies identified with the President and her allies.
These companies would include the Manila Standard Today newspaper, a daily broadsheet published by Enrique Razon, a close friend of Arroyo's husband, Jose Miguel Arroyo, who has been linked to the controversial ZTE broadband deal.
According to Romano, "pricking the conscience" of officials who support Arroyo is intended to make them see the immorality of bribery, and hopefully push them to "withdraw support" from the President.
He said civil society groups would also initiate an information campaign on the bribery scandals that hit the Arroyo administration.
Imelda Nicolas, a former Arroyo Cabinet member who resigned amid the so-called "Hello Garci" scandal in July 2005, said "calling for GMA's [Arroyo's initials] resignation was not enough."
The Hello Garci scandal revolved around a recording of a tapped phone conversation, in 2004, between Arroyo and then election commissioner Virgilio Garcillano about the status of her one-million- vote lead in the presidential election. The President apologized for her "lapse of judgment" in calling an election official but denied she cheated in the polls.
Nicolas said officials who were Arroyo's "pillars of moral support" should withdraw, a move similar to what the so-called "Hyatt 10" did two years ago.