Why does PBBM go to such great lengths to hide the fact that he is an ardent fan of the Formula 1 (F1) Grand Prix races in Singapore, and will do almost anything to watch it?
Last year, he snuck (that’s the best word to use) away to attended the Singapore Gran Prix on Sept. 30 -Oct. 2, with nary a word to his people.
Why do such a childish thing?
It could be that he felt guilty, because the country had just gone through a supertyphoon (Karding/Maru) , which had left 40 dead and caused P3 billion in agriculture loss and another P300 million in infrastructure damage. Traipsing away to enjoy the races at such a time would call to mind Nero fiddling away while Rome burned.
Or maybe he was afraid that Filipinos would frown at the President taking a vacation leave only three months into the Presidency. Government employees have to wait at least a year before they can apply for that.
Or maybe he thought that what the Filipinos didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him. So, sneak away, sneak back with no one the wiser.
Whatever his reasons, the important point is that a President of the Philippines acted like a child, and thought like a child. What does that say about him, or the country and people that elected him?
The childish thought that he could disappear and appear at will with no one the wiser was almost instantaneously laid to rest. A picture was posted on social media, showing PBBM with his son Sandro and his loyal cousin Martin (Speaker of the House), enjoying themselves at the races. It immediately went viral, and created a firestorm (or the Filipino version of it) of protest and outrage.
Amidst all this, the Palace was asked: Where is the President? Understand, Reader, this was a rhetorical question. We all knew where he was.
What was the Palace response? Dedma (Stonewall. Ignore the question, act like it had never been asked). It took the Palace three days, or just before he returned, to finally admit the President had indeed gone to Singapore.
According to this belated response, the President’s trip was taken to “strengthen” earlier talks from his last visit (referring to the state visit he made only three weeks earlier). How’s that for a lame excuse? To top it all, the “strengthening” apparently took place – guess where? — in the sidelines of the F1 Grand Prix! The excuse got even lamer.
That evening (Monday, Oct. 3) in an effort to put his trip in a better light, the President wrote on Instagram: “They say that playing golf is the best way to drum up business, but I say it’s Formula 1. What a productive weekend!” He did not expound. And neither did the Palace.
And that was that. Nothing more was said about the matter. No congressional hearings on the costs and benefits of the trip (how could there be, when the Speaker of the House was with him), no explanations of why the visit had been kept under wraps, the Secretary of Foreign Affairs kept mum all the time. The government, in effect, was silent.
And the Filipino people, perforce, accepted that. The President’s attempts to sneak out and sneak back were considered a mere peccadillo, the antics of a rich, spoiled brat.
For this year’s F1 Singapore Grand Prix, there was no more attempt to hide the fact that the President would attend. The way it was presented to us, though, was that his main reason for going to Singapore was to participate in the Milken Institute’s 10th Asia Summit, which is held yearly in there. Since the Grand Prix was coincidentally going to be held after the Summit, it was merely the gravy. Do you swallow that hooey, Reader?
Note that this “summit” is a private sector, not an official event. In fact the only two heads of government that attended were Marcos and Anwar Ibrahim of Malaysia, but the latter was attending in his capacity of Finance Minister of his country.
Note also that there was no need for PBBM to go, especially as he had already attended the much, much larger World Economic Forum in Switzerland earlier this year. And if he wanted to attend a Milken event, its annual Global Conference would have given him a much broader market, though it would still be duplicative.
In short, it is clear that he was attending that “Summit” merely as an excuse to go to his beloved F1 Grand Prix. Except that to make his cover good, he had to bring with him the DTI and the DOF Secretaries, not to mention his cousin Martin Romualdez, and his wife Liza (Sandro did not come this time, or he was not spotted). Plus of course his official retinue. Think of the cost!
But am I not being too negative? Didn’t he bring home the bacon? Wasn’t it announced, when he got home from Singapore, that an investment by Dyson worth P11 billion and creating 1,250 jobs was forthcoming in the next two years ?
Well, Reader, I present to you as evidence on my behalf, a Philippine News Agency (part of the Presidential Communication Office) story, dated May 23, 2023, headlined “Dyson’s P11-B software, R&D center in PH to open in 2024”. The story contained the statement, “In 2020, Dyson announced its expansion plans in Singapore, the Philippines, and the United Kingdom with a five-year investment amounting to £2.75 billion.” Dyson has been here since 2016.
In other words, Reader, this new bacon that PBBM claimed to bring in as a result of his Singapore trip was just old ham, part of a Dyson investment plan announced three years ago.
Mr. President, some gratuitous advise. If you are planning to continue to fool the Filipino people, and you are making your own decisions, please, get an adviser. If you already have an adviser, change him/her immediately, because he/she is underestimating the Filipino people. They know an out-and-out lie when they hear one.