So much ado about the Porsche

Now that he is President of the Republic of the Philippines, His Excellency, Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” C. Aquino III, is finding out the hard way that almost nothing about what he does, officially or unofficially, publicly or privately, can escape public scrutiny and criticism. The latest episode centered on his recent acquisition of a pre-owned Porsche 911 sports car, certainly one of the best cars any individual can own and drive. And within minutes after word about the “toy” got out in the media, President Noynoy became target for a torrent of excoriating and nasty criticism especially on his Facebook page.

The main criticism stems from the seemingly ostentatious choice of a vehicle for the bachelor President. A Porsche, in the eyes of these critics, does not sit well in light of the widespread poverty still prevailing in the country. One writer even compared the purchase of the car to the Le Cirque scandal that rocked the administration of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in 2009. Why, said another, did he buy the Porsche when the President had ordered all “government officials” (actually it was directed to agencies, not the officials individually) not to acquire luxury SUVs.

This is the closest to a lynching mob that President Noynoy has had to face so far. But is the issue valid?

Buying a car involves not just being able to afford it, but also getting one that suits one’s personality and assures premium value for money. It projects who we are, not in the sense that we lavish on luxury, but demand the best in what we own and possess. A lot of people know that aside from guns, the next passion of the President are cars. Those who know him well will tell you he is quickly engaged when talking about Glocks or HKs or Kimbers. And then he also likes talking about cars. Each of us has that character trait. We don’t necessarily have to own so many of what we like, but we like to read about them, or look at them in malls or stores.

It’s like choosing a cellphone. Who among his critics are quick to buy the latest model of cellphones? I’m sure many own an iPhone 4, or its predecessor, an iPhone 3GS, or even the original iPhone. Why did they buy a communications tool that’s fairly expensive? Why not settle for a basic Nokia 1100 or similar model? Of course, the answer is that the decision was based on the features of the iPhone not found in cheaper models, as well as the financial capability (although many even buy on credit, and pay interest to own one). There is a feeling that it’s worth its price. The prestige of owning one also comes along as another factor. In fact, I know many people who don’t even bother to know the features on the phone and use only the phone and text function. But we don’t begrudge them for picking an iPhone 4, or its earlier models. It just feels good to own one.

It’s the same thing with cars. Just because he is President of the Republic doesn’t deprive Mr. Aquino of his personal tastes. His position allows him the use of expensive cars and SUVs in the motor pool of Malacanang. If it’s just a matter of having a mode of transportation, he didn’t have to bother. The government of the Philippines entitles him to bullet-proof rides. But he loves cars, and he saw one that attracted his interest. It’s not something that he can really drive around, because the opportunity to do so will be scarce. The President wants to own one, albeit pre-owned, for the satisfaction that he will derive. It’s not even as a status symbol, as he has no need of one.

Is it an insensitive flaunting of wealth amid widespread poverty? Is it comparable, as one writer said, to the Le Cirque blow-out of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo? Is it inconsistent with his own directive against the buying of luxury SUVs by government agencies. My answer is no, no and no.

As already pointed out, it is a pre-owned car. Nobody will dispute the fact that the President can afford to buy a brand new Porsche if he wanted to. But he settled for a second-hand car. And he traded his personal SUV as part of the purchase price. For me, it’s an acceptable compromise.

Second, the Le Cirque dinner was a one-night meal. The next day, the million peso gumption would have been digested and expended by Gloria Arroyo and party. The Porsche will be there even after President Noy leaves office, and its value would not have diminished much. In that manner, it’s an investment. To compare the two acts stretches the imagination to breaking point.

Third, there is no inconsistency as argued by TV reporter RG Cruz. The directive for austerity and simplicity involved the expenditure of public funds. We know that many agencies have been buying expensive SUVs as service vehicles for secretaries, under secretaries and other top officials. The President put a stop to this. If these officials want to ride in luxury, they will have to use their own cars bought with their own money, not the taxpayers money.

Let’s give him a break. Many of us collect die-cast models of sports cars. Men dream about owning sports cars, but that’s about the closest they could get to owning one, or two, or three — model cars. We spend long hours admiring the scale models. It’s enough to fuel those dreams. The President is a human being with the same longings and dreams as most of us. A big difference is that he can afford to buy the car of his dreams — the real one. Do we begrudge him for it? We know the Presidency puts him on a higher plane, imposing higher standards of behavior upon him. But just because he’s now President doesn’t mean we chain him in the “bartolina” where he can no longer exercise normal human behavior.

It’s not a show-off. It’s not an ostentatious display of wealth. It’s not an insult to the deprivation and poverty that exists around us. Even Superman, the man of steel, is known to have human feelings and frailties. Do we tell the President, no, you can’t play like ordinary men? Do we tell him, no, you have to wait until the end of your Presidency until you are restored to your normal norms? Do we tell him that he can’t enjoy the pleasure of driving a powerful car that would respond smoothly and quickly to the slightest pressure on the gas pedal?

Oh, come on, don’t tell me that with the difficult job he’s handling, President Aquino isn’t entitled to recreation and relaxation. Don’t tell me his status prevents him from having fun like any of us. The Presidency isn’t a vow of poverty. It’s a big sacrifice, but it isn’t total detachment from worldly pleasures. Rather than castigate him for this human weakness, if you might want to call it a weakness, then let’s allow him to enjoy it if it’s going to help him get his mind off the problems every once in a while. This way, he can always go back to his job as President with vigor and energy. The nation deserves a President who is always enthusiastic and refreshed. If it’s a P4.5 million Porsche that can make that happen, then we should be happy he’s found the right “toy” to keep him full of energy.

About Manuel "Boy" Mejorada
Manuel "Boy" Mejorada is a journalist and social media activist. A former Iloilo provincial administrator, he is now waging a crusade against corruption and narco-politics.

One Response to So much ado about the Porsche

  1. Archie Villaluna says:

    [ the Le Cirque dinner was a one-night meal. The next day, the million peso gumption would have been digested and expended by Gloria Arroyo and party. The Porsche will be there even after President Noy leaves office, and its value would not have diminished much. In that manner, it’s an investment. To compare the two acts stretches the imagination to breaking point.]

    Yes, they are incomparable in terms of purpose, lifespan and price. But they are one and the same in setting a bad example.


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