For urban poor group Kadamay, buying an expensive car such as a Porsche is like Aquino saying “I do not care if prices are high for as long as I have the money to buy myself a nice car.” The group also compared Aquino to a father who ate an entire roasted chicken for himself while his children are starving.
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA — Vhie Bello, 25, a bank employee, could not help but feel bad when she heard the news that President Benigno S. Aquino III, whom she supported during the last elections, bought a ‘new toy’ just when many Filipinos are going through hard times.
Last Christmas, Aquino bought a “third hand” Porsche 911, a premiere sports car in the motoring industry, using funds, he said, from his own pocket. “What’s wrong if I drive a Porsche while I still can?” he said in a report, “My reflexes might not be the same 10 years from now. I will not be [limited to] playing video games just so I could experience that [rush of driving a sports car].”
He added that luxury cars, like the “third hand” Porsche which he bought for P4.5 million ($100,000), would help him “relax” whenever he has a tough decision to make. “I hope no one will object that I be seen smiling at times despite the problems I am facing,” Aquino said.
Other government officials, such as Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Miguel Zubiri, also came to his defense. ”Why should we deny the highest leader of the land a Porsche? We want him to have a bicycle? I don’t think we want him to have a bicycle,” Enrile said, “Like the Philippines, there are poor in the United States, Malaysia, China and even Saudi Arabia but they do not criticize their leaders for having expensive cars.”
But for Bello, flaunting his wealth would not do good to the Filipino people just when the prices of everything is soaring up. “How come Kris (Aquino) did not stop him?” she said in jest, referring to Aquino’s youngest sister who supposedly looks after his image, adding that this decision would “definitely affect his popularity rating especially among the poor.”
Filipino children too poor to afford anything ask for alms along the streets of Manila. (Photo by Clemente Bautista / bulatlat.com)
While Bello recognizes Aquino’s rights to buy the things that he wants, granting he would use his own money, the expensive sports car was ” way too much.” It is clear, she said, that Aquino is indifferent to the plight of poor Filipino masses. “He obviously did not think about this decision,” she said.
Carlito Badion, vice chairman of urban poor group Kadamay, also echoed Bello’s sentiments, saying that Aquino might have thought that he is the president of a first world country, when, in fact, many of his countrymen are poor and hungry. Kadamay cited, in its recent statement, a survey of the Social Weather Stations, which was conducted on November 27 to 30, 2010, that some 18.1 percent of the population or 3.4 million families have gone hungry during the last three months of 2010 because they lacked anything to eat.
SWS said that the number of those who experienced involuntary hunger have increased compared to the 15.9 percent or three million families that was recorded in September of the same year. Those families, on the other hand, who consider themselves poor barely changed from September’s 48 percent to the 49 percent in November.
The dire living conditions of the poor are about to get even worse as prices of basic commodities and services are expected to increase. The 300 percent increase in toll fees for the South and North Luzon Expressways, it would inevitably raise the prices of goods coming from the provinces, such as vegetables.
On January 11, on the other hand, the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) has approved the new rates for Metro Manila train lines. The DOTC said that passengers would have to pay a boarding fee of P11 and P1 charge for every kilometer. Single journey tickets, however, would be sold for P15, P20 and P30. Sammy Malunes, spokesperson of Riles Network, an alliance against the LRT/MRT fare hike, said thousands of the low-income riding public would be heavily affected.
“I might as well endure the traffic by riding a bus on my way to work. If the fare hikes will be implemented, I do not think that we should still consider the (trains) as a public mode of transportation,” Shiela Coo, 27, a wellness spa employee in Taguig City, who travels everyday via MRT. “It is not worth it. Sometimes, the air-conditioning leaks or the operation gets disrupted.”
Buying an expensive car like Porsche, Badion said, is like Aquino saying, “I do not care if prices are high for as long as I have the money to buy myself a nice car.” He also compared Aquino to a father who ate an entire roasted chicken for himself while his children are starving.
No Economic Reforms
Despite the problems that the Filipino people are experiencing, Aquino has not made any significant move to address the roots of poverty aside from his pet economic reform program, the Conditional Cash Transfer scheme. The said program, however, has been criticized by progressive organizations such as independent think-tank Ibon Foundation to be a “massive dole-out, public relations and counterinsurgency fund audaciously packaged as a novel way of addressing poverty and underdevelopment.”
“It would temporarily address poverty but it would not be sufficient to uplift the quality of life of its beneficiaries,” Badion told Bulatlat.com.
If Aquino, Badion said, would really want to drive home a Porsche, “He must first address the roots of poverty in the country,” citing the need to implement agrarian reform, provide accessible basic social services to the people and to pursue national industrialization.