Jan 19, 2011

PNoy and the Porsche: What's the going rate for The Filipino's "investment"?

Dear Filipino,

I'm sure you've heard about the Philippine president buying a Porsche supposedly so he can use it to unwind.  What's your take on it?

Poorish Pinoy

Dear Poorish,

I supported PNoy's candidacy so I was really upset about this news.  By support, I mean I invested time (by attending US-based campaign events in support of his candidacy -- no matter how inconsequential my presence at these events may have been in the grand scheme of things); treasure (by spending and/or contributing a little bit at these campaign events -- no matter how miniscule the amount I could afford); and talent (by sharing some of my ideas with the folks who were more prominently campaigning for him -- no matter how superfluous, naive and/or worthless these ideas may have been).

More than the 3 T's, I also invested in PNoy my personal emotions and my hopes for the country.  And as you will probably agree, emotions and hopes are always arguably the most costly aspect of any form of investment whenever an investment ends up not panning out. 

Please don't get me wrong: I'm not writing off my "investment" yet.  But if I have to render a graphical representation, it would look something like this:

The data points in the x-axis (which represents the timeline) correspond to the following events:
1 = Senator Noynoy's conduct at ex-President Cory Aquino's wake;
2 = Senator Noynoy's decision to run and conduct during the campaign;
3 = Senator Noynoy's winning the election;
4 = PNoy's inauguration;
5 = PNoy's handling of the kidnapping incident at Luneta;
6 = PNoy's visit to the US when he met with Fil-Ams (I attended two events);
7 = PNoy's decision to keep DILG Undersecretary Puno;
8 = PNoy's dissing of DILG Secretary Robredo (the best member of his Cabinet);
9 = PNoy's snub of the Nobel Peace Prize awarding ceremonies in Norway in order not to anger China;
10 = PNoy's purchase of the Porsche car.
As you can see, I'm at 60, down 40% from the starting price of 100.  But it's not at zero yet, so there's still hope for a rebound.

Additionally, the Porsche purchase indicates one thing to me: Now, I know for sure, without a shadow of a doubt, that he's not getting good advice from the folks around him who should be giving him solid advice.  And I think that's the problem when you have friends (his closest advisers are supposedly his friends) who are scared to give you the right advice because they don't want to offend you and would rather ingratiate themselves to you to keep their positions.

But my take on this Porsche matter was actually captured perfectly in an Inquirer column written by someone I respect a lot, Attorney Ted Laguatan.  I think it's impossible for me to improve on what he wrote so I am just going to reproduce it here for your convenience, as follows:

PNoy's Porsche: The good, the bad, and the ugly

To the shock of many, staid, non-flashy supposedly simple living PNoy recently purchased a Porsche.

Malacanang-sourced reports state that it is not a new car. Even if the model is not specified, based on the indicated P4.5-million (about $92,000) price, I would guess that it's one of those powerful iconic 911 supercar models in the Carerra series.

A seller of such a car would advertise it as: "Pre-owned like new. Only 62,000 miles. Rich leather interiors. Iconic model. Absolutely stunning!" Whereas a PR man trying to downplay the purchase would describe the car as: "A highly depreciated used third-hand entry level model with already 10,000 plus kilometers. Nothing extraordinary."

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda did in fact used some of these PR speak. To further downplay the purchase, PNoy announced that he paid for the Porsche by selling his old BMW and taking a bank loan. He also claimed that he needed the car to relax so that he can make better decisions.

Let's take a good look at the situation.

The Good

Purchasing the Porsche with his own money shows a lack of guile and honesty. PNoy could easily have asked a millionaire supporter to buy him a new Porsche. He did not. If he were corrupt, he also could easily have a fleet of even more expensive cars by simply favoring certain government contractors who would overprice their bids and gladly give these to him as kickback.

It also shows that unlike the children of other presidents, he did not enjoy the luxury of having this kind of expensive cars when his mother was president—which speaks well of him and his mother.

Bongbong, Jinggoy, or Mikey are probably cracking up with the news of fifty-year-old PNoy still getting excited with a used Porsche. They already had their taste of all kinds of new luxury cars when they were barely out of their teens. They are now into helicopters, private jet planes, and yachts.

If he were dishonest, PNoy could already have bought this kind of car when he was a congressman or senator by simply using his pork barrel funds and utilizing all kinds of shadow transactions to acquire it—a common enough practice. Or better yet, he could easily have used a crony to buy the car for him so nobody knows.

Like a little boy wanting an expensive toy, when he became president and could afford to, he impulsively buys this pre-owned Porsche. He believed there was nothing wrong with his purchase as he was paying for it with money honestly earned.

As president, he has access to other types of vehicles which he could easily convert to become his private toys: airplanes, helicopters, tanks, boats, etc. He does not want to do that. Instead, he uses his own money to buy a car that he would enjoy and relax with. Purchasing the car, by itself, is really not a bad thing.

All these indicate a naïveté of sort—maybe even a showing of admirable honesty if interpreted along honesty criteria.

The Bad

However, even if there was no corruption involved in this car purchase and given that he could afford it— even his mother and father would most likely tell him that it was an improper thing to do and that he was acting like an impulsive kid. Aside from honesty, affordability, and his personal enjoyment, there are other issues.

As president, he needs to show a polite sensitivity to the plight and feelings of millions of desperately poor Filipinos. Nearly one-third of our countrymen live in quiet desperation barely surviving in slum communities and go to bed hungry at night. Mothers and fathers helplessly see their children every day deprived of proper food, shelter, health care and education—condemned to a life without a decent future. Some quietly shed tears at night knowing their sick children will die because they cannot afford to buy medicines or medical services.

The president of a country where this kind of mass poverty and misery thrives appears to show an utter lack of sensitivity to the plight and feelings of the desperately poor in buying a P4.5-million Porsche. Who doesn't want to drive a fine car? However, proper discretion dictates that even if in fact he can afford to honestly buy the Porsche or that he thinks driving it relaxes him, it doesn't necessarily mean he should have one.

It shows not only insensitivity but also immaturity and poor leadership. There are better ways to relax, less expensive, and far less dangerous than to drive a super power car in the Philippines' dangerous highways. PNoy ought to be aware that he owes it to the people who elected him to show sensitivity, take care of his safety, and be a true leader. The image he also presents to the world brings respect or disrespect to the country and its people

Being president is a great responsibility. He is either a servant to the people or a curse to them. If the president is to be a servant and a great president, he must be willing to sacrifice his own personal needs and idiosyncrasies for his people.

The Ugly

We have just seen the end of the presidency of one of the most unpopular presidents in the country's history, marked by persuasive evidence of mass corruption. A corrupt leader brings massive suffering to the people. PNoy inherited a bankrupt government where the culture of corruption is the norm rather than the exception. From the ruins of the past government, the new administration is struggling to build an honest efficient government responsive to the needs of the people, a very difficult task in which everyone of good faith should help.

PNoy was elected by an overwhelming majority, a landslide victory. All of us who supported him and even PNoy himself would be fooling ourselves if we believe in any way that he won because of charisma. He also did not even have any notable legislative record to speak of.

What catapulted him to the presidency was the people's hope: that he could bring real change to their lives. At least with him, there was this chance that their impossible dream of having a better, less corrupt, less poor Philippines might become a reality. He had a father who sacrificed his life for his people. He had a mother who sincerely and honestly tried under very difficult circumstances to be a good president. With these genes and legacy, millions placed their hopes on him rather than on the other candidates.

If he fails because he does not understand the real sacrifices demanded of him, he only has himself to blame. So many millions are behind him to help him succeed in this great endeavor. If when his term ends and the country is worse off than when he took over, it will be ugly for him and for all of us.


With all due respect, Mr. President, allow me this personal note. Get rid of that Porsche. Please. That's not too much of a sacrifice for you. It gives you a bad image: an insensitive wild playboy which you are not. I also doubt that driving a super fast sport car on bumpy trafficky, mostly narrow Philippine roads and highways is going to relax you and help you make better decisions. It is dangerous—which might even make you more tense. Instead, utilize proven ways to relax and to get rid of tensions: solitude, meditation, prayer, regular gym workouts. A healthy diet and breaking the chain smoking habit will also help.

So much of where the country goes depends on you. Your enemies would like to see you fail. They'll pick on every single issue they can use against you. You need to maintain the shine on your armor in the great sacred fight against corruption, poverty, and other national problems. While this Porsche issue is not going to bring you down as no corruption is involved, it weakens you as it touches on the issue of sensitivity and maybe even sincerity. It's like feasting on a thick Wagyu steak while everyone else around you eats galungong or tuyo. You cannot take this issue lightly.

We who support you because we want a better country want you to succeed. Success means repeatedly pulling one's self together, making sacrifices, getting up after every mistake or failure, being sensitive to people's feelings and having a clear vision of desired goals. Additionally for you, the chosen one, it’s being a true leader to your people—meaning truly loving them and being unconditionally committed to their welfare. Your father and mother expect that much from you. We, whom you claim to be your boss ("Kayo ang akin boss!"), expect the same.
Got a question for The Filipino?  Email him now at askthepinoy@gmail.com.


New Canaan used porsche said...

Well information.
However, I'm in support of buying one Porsche car.

The Marikina Chap said...

Dear Filipino,

You continue to demonstrate your wit and erudition. In my book, you just got 3 strikes on this article, one each for 'The Bad', 'The Good', and 'The Ugly' - and that's awesome my friend. I think this is the reason why your blog's readership is geometrically increasing which is not good for you for many reasons: you seem to be running short of time based on the list of questions you have not answered: you get more questions since your readership is growing and becoming more sophisticated, desiring to know more information on various issues related to our beloved Philippines, and giving their opinion in some controversial issues, just like PISST OFF did; you need to do more research because I think although you and the Filipina are very intelligent and skillful writers, you may not know them all; and then you have to contextualize all these basic information into a knowledgeable and coherent wisdom (I am trying to use some hi-fallutin words but they don't come out easy).

In regard to PNoy and his Porsche, let him have it since he wants it, and because it is his money (and of course he has to buy his own gas) and he thinks it will make him happy, then so be it. It really is none of our business although it is his duty to protect himself (where in the Phil can you drive so fast to endanger yourself and from what - the tricycles and jeepney's?) since he is our appointed president, and we expect so much from him, and we all are his boss.

I guess being a president, especially if you want to be a good one, is one of the most difficult and stressful jobs in the world. You are always under a microscope and no matter what you do, others will somehow find fault on it. I think the handling of the Luneta incident and the Nobel Prize snubbing were a couple of his negative un-accomplishments so far. But I still hope and pray that he would be and will do well to our old country - he may be our last hope before the country gets totally flushed in the toilet.

He needs the support of the Filipino people, including expatriates like us. The expatriates and the OFW's need to know the things they can do to help the old country. It's not enough that they send money home, which increases the people’s GDP, they also need investments from abroad to revitalize the local economy. We need to be more involved in their political agendas (would a dual citizenship a start to this?), and many others. Can we expect another article from you on this issue? (sorry, I know it will be another item on your long list).

The Filipino said...

@New Canaan:
Thanks. If I win the lotto, I know where to go if I decide I want to get my hands on one of those babies too. ;-)

@The Marikina Chap:
Thanks so much for the compliments, but you may have overlooked the paragraph preceding the indented paragraphs. Those were written by Ted Laguatan, not by yours truly.

You're right -- we need to support PNoy more. I'm just hoping he appreciates that every move of his has leadership-related implications.

The Marikina Chap said...

I missed that preamble. Kudos then to Atty. Laguatan. His style is similar to yours, hence my confusion - and that's my alibi.

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