SAN FRISCO STOPOVER:  GMA  WON'T  USE  KITCHEN  ENTRANCE

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA,  November 18, 2004
(STAR)
By Marichu Villanueva (via PLDT)  An advance party of Philippine officials accompanying President Arroyo in her working visit here said no way would she pass through the backdoor for security reasons as she addresses a public gathering at the University of San Francisco.

Security-conscious American Secret Service officials have insisted that Mrs. Arroyo pass through the "kitchen doors" of the five-star Hyatt Regency hotel in Burlingame where the presidential delegation is billeted.

Presidential adviser for state and foreign visits Ambassador Marciano Paynor stood his ground against the impositions by the US Secret Service, The STAR gathered here yesterday on the eve of the President’s visit.

"You should try to understand that we Asians, in our culture and way of life, we do not want to lose face before our people," Paynor was quoted as diplomatically telling the Secret Service.

The advance team led by Paynor was aghast at the security impositions that required Mrs. Arroyo to use the kitchen as entry and exit points to the hotel to avoid expected protests by left-leaning Filipino-American groups.

"We have gone to many places which could be considered very dangerous by any standards but not once did our President ever enter through the backdoor for security reasons," he added.

The President arrives here tonight for an overnight stopover visit en route to Santiago, Chile, to attend the 12th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders’ summit.

The US Secret Service’s concern for the safety and security of Mrs. Arroyo is not surprising though as there was an incident during her visit to this city in May last year.

Several Filipino-American students were able to breach the security cordon and sneak into an auditorium where the President was meeting with the Filipino expatriate community in the Bay Area.

In the middle of her speech, the young protesters suddenly unfurled streamers to denounce the alleged human rights abuses in the home country. The protesters, chanting anti-government slogans, however did not resist as they were led out by security men and were briefly detained at the police station.

The President proceeded to finish her speech and even acknowledged the presence of the protesters, saying that their grievances were being addressed by her government.

The Philippine officials said they understood the US Secret Service’s concern since they would be held accountable if anything untoward happens to the President during her stopover.

Among the official activities of Mrs. Arroyo are the University of San Francisco’s conferment on her of an honorary doctorate degree in ceremonies to be held at St. Ignatius Church on Parker Avenue.

USF president Stephen A. Privett, SJ, has announced that due to limited seating capacity in the church, tickets will be required for the event.

After the investiture, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom would ceremonially present to Mrs. Arroyo the key to the city also at USF campus.

Tomorrow night there are scheduled cocktails at the Hyatt Regency ballroom with the Filipino community before Mrs. Arroyo flies to Chile. The gathering was organized by the President’s former campaign director, Lupita Kashiwahara, who said tickets to the event are at $30 each.

"How can you stop our countrymen here from getting close to President Arroyo who won here by as much as 98 percent in the ‘absentee voters’ in the whole Bay Area?" Kashiwahara asked.

Among the performers at the barrio fiesta-type reception is Jasmine Trias, the Filipina-American who was a finalist in the "American Idol" contest.

Trias, who met the President last month in Manila when she flew home from Hawaii with her family to visit relatives in Cavite, will sing the national anthem.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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