Filipinos countered a Cabinet executive’s comments that the public does not need to know about the source of the funds for the president’s weekend trip to Singapore where the latter watched a racing event.
Newly-appointed Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin on Tuesday defended President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.‘s attendance in the 2022 Singapore Grand Prix barely a week after Typhoon Karding (International name: Noru) battered parts of Luzon, particularly its central region.
The retired chief justice said that Marcos met with “many people who were very relevant to our business activities or the running of our government.”
Bersamin also said that the trip’s funding source was “irrelevant.”
“…Whether it was a fully-paid trip or not is irrelevant,” he said.
“It’s beyond issue, it’s not relevant at all to question, to ask kung sino ang gumastos… Basta he is doing something for us,” Bersamin was also quoted as saying.
“We do not have direct knowledge [of] how it was funded, but I am sure if that was the trip of the president, you don’t need to be too particular about where the funds were sourced because he was still performing his job as president when he was abroad, although that is not an official state visit,” he said.
Bersamin added that the weekend trip was “not immodest” and that it was Marcos’ “private time.”
“Let’s assume that it is his private time because he chose to go there for a specific purpose, to watch (the motor race), that was his primary (purpose). But he could go there also for other purposes, equally important,” he said.
“You may not call that a state visit. Nonetheless, it’s not any less covered by that law which holds great importance and value to the welfare of the First Family,” Bersamin added, referring to the administrative code.
He further said that people are “entitled” to their own private time and private moments.
“If you love to do something, you should not be moved or impacted by others who may not agree with you,” Bersamin said.
When he was asked what concrete benefits have been reaped from Marcos’ trip, the Cabinet official said it was too early to tell.
The chief executive, meanwhile, said that his trip was intended to “drum up business.”
“They say that playing golf is the best way to drum up business, but I say it’s Formula 1,” Marcos wrote on Facebook on Monday.
“What a productive weekend! It was fulfilling to have been invited alongside several dignitaries and to have met new business friends who showed that they are ready and willing to invest in the Philippines,” he added.
Marcos, together with First Lady Liza Araneta-Marcos, his son Rep. Sandro Marcos (Ilocos Norte, First District) and his cousin, House Speaker Martin Romualdez (Leyte, First District), were spotted watching the Formula One motor race held last Sunday.
Several questions about transparency were brought up by some Filipinos after the Palace initially said that Marcos had “strengthened” bilateral talks with the city-state in the unannounced trip.
The president went to Singapore for a state visit last month.
Meanwhile, some wondered about the presence of Marcos’ family and cousin while others asked if “public funds” were used for the trip following the Palace’s statement that the trip involved the president strengthening such talks.
“Is this a confirmation that the trip was financed by taxpayers’ money???” a Twitter user asked before.
Bersamina’s comment about the Singapore trip funding source did not sit well with some Filipinos. Others reminded the ES that such matters involving public officials are relevant to the citizens.
“Bakit irrelevant e public official ‘yan?” a Twitter user asked when the executive secretary said it was “irrelevant” to the discussion.
“It is relevant because the Filipino people [deserve] to know because he is a public servant and not a private citizen,” another Pinoy responded to Bersamin.
“Not relevant? We, as tax payers [would] like to know! ‘Yung kalahati ng araw mo kumakayod para [lang] makasahod and the gov’t gets 30+ % from that hardearned money tapos NOT RELEVANT!” a different Twitter user reacted.
Another Filipino reminded Bersamin of Article XI of the 1987 Philippine Constitution, which notes the “accountability of public officials.”
“Remind lang natin si ES na dating SCCJ [Supreme Court Chief Justice],” the account said, sharing a screengrab of the certain article.
“Public office is a public trust. Public officers and employees must at all times be accountable to the people, serve them with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty, and efficiency, act with patriotism and justice, and lead modest lives,” part of the article reads.
“The President, the Vice-President, the Members of the Supreme Court, the Members of the Constitutional Commissions, and the Ombudsman may be removed from office, on impeachment for, and conviction of, culpable violation of the Constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes, or betrayal of public trust,” it added.
The president, being the highest-ranking official in the land, is constitutionally mandated “to serve and protect the people,” being elected by the Filipinos themselves.
He or she is also expected to protect the Constitution, which is the fundamental law of the nation.