“Aquino gets himself a new toy–a Porsche,” headlines a newspaper. Instantly, the news report spread like a virus in the social networking media like Facebook and Twitter. And once again, denizens of cyberspace had a heyday criticizing President Benigno “P-Noy” Aquino III, this time for buying a 2007 Porsche 911 Turbo Carrera sports car. IN an attempt to control any damage from this latest “fallout,” P-Noy emphasized that it was a “third-hand” used Porsche he bought for a bargain price of P4.5 million only. But Mr. President, a Porsche is a “Porsche” and it’s emblematic of the “creamiest of the cream of the crop” in our society.
Indeed, driving a Porsche is unlike driving a Mercedes Benz, BMW, Lexus or Jaguar, which are expensive cars but are common sights on the road so much so that they don’t even attract any attention. But a Porsche 911 sports car, especially the Turbo Carrera that P-Noy bought, would raise eyebrows and elicit gasps from onlookers especially when it makes that awesome “turbo” noise when revving or accelerating it.
P-Noy driving a Porsche reminds me of spoiled rich kids speeding at 150 kilometers an hour in the expressways. Indeed, P-Noy is like a spoiled rich kid who has grown but refuses to grow up. And that seems to be the message he conveys to the public when he acquired his latest toy.
Exclusive Porsche Club
In 1991, three friends who owned Porsche 911 would get together every Sunday morning to drive their Porsches from the Manila Polo Club down the South Super Highway to Canlubang or Puerto Azul and back to Manila Polo Club in time for breakfast. Pretty soon other Porsche owners joined in their “Sunday runs.”
The following year they incorporated into the Porsche Club Philippines. To date, their exclusive – and elite — club has grown to 58 members who own a total of 174 Porsches among them. At one time their membership grew to 70 with each member owning an average of 3.5 Porsches (source: www.porscheclubphilippines.com). Should P-Noy join this very exclusive club, he may have to buy a few more Porsches just to keep up with the members.
P-Noy’s critics include political leaders, sectoral and civil society leaders, and the clergy. Even the youth did not approve of his purchase. Kabataan Party-list Rep. Raymond Palatino, who represents the youth in Congress, said that P-Noy was being insensitive to the plight of his people. In a statement he released to the media, Palatino said, “The sheer insensitivity of President Aquino is breathtaking. He burdens the people with toll, fare and price hikes. He wants us to be calm about the increases as he delights himself with a luxury sports vehicle.” Palatino hit the nail on the head when he said, “It would appear as though the President is very much deserving of relaxation while the people have to suffer from the increases. His display of wealth is a troubling reminder of the wide disparity between the rich and poor in the country.”
Critics also reminded P-Noy that only last month, he issued a memorandum “prohibiting all agencies from acquiring and using luxury vehicles for their operations, and to be more prudent in spending government funds, especially in the acquisition of motor vehicles to maximize the utilization of scarce government resources.”
However, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda was quick to defend P-Noy saying that he did not violate the memorandum because he used his own funds to purchase the Porsche. Huh? Mr. Lacierda, you don’t get it, do you?
The real issue
The real issue is not whether P-Noy used his own funds to buy the car or not; it’s a question of appropriateness: Should the country’s leader live in pomp and splendor while the poor are suffering the pain of poverty and the gnawing pang of hunger?
Porsche symbolizes the lifestyle of the rich and powerful class of our society. Driving fast sports cars while the poor are eating “pagpag” and scavenging in garbage dump sites reminds me of the vainglorious Marie Antoinette when she told the French peasants to eat cake when she heard they didn’t have bread.
On a more serious note, there is the question of the car’s provenance. P-Noy claimed that he bought the “third-hand” Porsche Turbo 911Carrera for P4.5 million from his personal funds. However, according to Manila columnist Ernesto M. Maceda, Porsche enthusiasts who hang out at Burgos Circle at Global City said, “that 2nd hand Porsche 911 Turbo Carrera would sell at P7.5 million, definitely, not P4.5 million as President Noynoy claimed.” Indeed, Maceda had several unanswered questions: How much did P-Noy really pay for it? Or was it really a gift from some big, rich businessman friend? P-Noy should now reveal who sold it to him and how he paid for it if he did, by check or in cash? Did he check if it was tax paid? Did it enter the country thru the port of Manila, Cebu, Subic or Cagayan CEZA? And, interestingly, Maceda added, “Chris Tiu, the biggest ‘importer’ of Porsche and other luxury cars thru the Port of Cebu has been appointed vice president for marketing of Pagcor. That’s a great leap from car salesman to vice president for marketing of a P100-billion corporation.” Coincidence? Or…
The buzz going around in Facebook is that P-Noy did not buy that Porsche; it was a gift from an architect friend of his who would benefit from “cornered” government contracts. Now, what the hell does “cornered” mean?
While I tend to believe that P-Noy is fundamentally honest and incorruptible, things like this could put a dark cloud over him; thus, casting a shadow of doubt on the “honest and incorruptible leader” that he projects himself to be. The last thing P-Noy would want to happen early in his administration is to create the perception that he is no different from his corrupt predecessor. And like his predecessor, once that perception is created in the people’s minds, it stays there for a long time.
Indeed, in politics, perception is reality. You are what you are perceived to be.
“Matuwid na daan”
And at a time when the country is barely surviving from the excesses of the previous Arroyo administration, buying things that smack of extravagance is sending the wrong message to the people who are pinning their hopes on the reforms P-Noy promised to make.
P-Noy told his subordinates to take a “matuwid na daan” (straight path) in the performance of their job. By the same token, P-Noy’s “boss,” the Filipino people, expect him not only to take a “matuwid na daan” but – more importantly – to lead by example and in the same lifestyle his people live by.
Mr. President, please don’t let your people down.