A rarity: Majority, minority agree on bombproof limousine, private jet for Aquino
For the past 21 months in office, President Benigno Aquino III has never grumbled about using Malacañang’s five-year old limousine or a borrowed sport utility vehicle (SUV) from an in-law in going to his functions outside the Palace.
So why are his allies and critics in Congress suddenly claiming that his means of transportation is not good enough and that he deserves to have the classiest and safest ride in town?
On Monday, four lawmakers belonging to the House majority coalition filed Resolution No. 1291 urging the Department of Budget and Management to buy a bulletproof and bombproof car using government savings.
They cited security reasons for the purchase of a new vehicle as the presidential fleet—two Mercedes Benz W221 S-Class limousines acquired in 1998 and a water-damaged Mercedes Benz S-Guard automobile bought in 2007—were in “a sorry state unfit for use by the Chief Executive.”
Representatives Ben Evardone of Eastern Samar, Alfredo “Albee” Benitez of Negros Occidental, Cesar Sarmiento of Catanduanes, and Mel Senen Sarmiento of Western Samar claimed that their proposal was backed by the 188 lawmakers who impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona on several charges, including betrayal of public trust.
Not to be outdone, Minority Leader Danilo Suarez and Iloilo Representative Augusto Syjuco suggested that the President should not only buy an armored SUV but that he should even buy a private jet for his official visits abroad.
Suarez said the Palace had two planes ready for the President’s use—a Fokker F27 and F28—but these were as old as the 52-year-old Chief Executive.
“Even if we are from the minority, he is still our President. It doesn’t look good that he will fly to many different places using an executive jet owned by other people. To end speculation that he was giving favors to the owners of these jets, he should have bought his own,” Suarez said.
He said Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo had wanted to buy her own jet when she was the President, but the overwhelming negative public opinion forced her to drop the plan.
“He (President Aquino) has such a high acceptance rating and I believe the people will understand if he buys a plane of his own,” Suarez said.
Syjuco, who is facing an P8.2-billion corruption charge in the Office of the Ombudsman, even offered to swap his 2011 “Level 6 bombproof and bulletproof” SUV with the Palace’s 2007 Mercedes limousine.
“I think my SUV is fit for a bachelor like him while his antique Mercedes will suit me just fine,” he said.
Suarez said the President should either buy a Maybach or a stretch Mercedes, which would cost roughly $500,000 or P21 million.
“We should not look at the price; we should look at how proud we will be to hear that our President uses a Mercedes Benz,” said Suarez, who could not help but acknowledge that he and his colleagues sounded like Mr. Aquino’s spokespersons Edwin Lacierda and Abigail Valte in egging him to buy a new limo and jet.