Was it a ‘gift’ like Duterte’s Mercedes, which he kept?
REMEMBER the Porsche 911 Carrera that former President Benigno Aquino III, just months into his presidency, claimed he bought for P5 million, and that he used the money he got when he sold his BMW?
Remember how because of the furor over such display of opulence, he claimed to have sold it six months later for exactly the same price, that I had asked in my columns that Aquino and the Land Transportation Office (headed by his old Tarlac friend the late Virginia Torres) release the car’s deed of sale and registration to prove that it was not a gift from a Chinese-Filipino tycoon?
Remember how I had bet in my column of March 18, 2014 that Aquino would never let a Freedom of Information Act pass—even if it was one of his campaign promises in 2010—as long as he was President, or the press would demand that he disclose the deeds of sale and LTO registrations for his purchase and sale of his BMW?
Six years in power, and different versions of FOI bills filed, the Congress which Aquino controlled—so tightly he ordered the removal of Chief Justice Renato Corona, and it was done in just five months— never did pass such a bill.
His successor, President Duterte, simply signed an executive order requiring government agencies to release any information they have, subject to certain restrictions such as national security and people’s right to privacy under the Constitution.
So, I thought I would invoke Duterte’s order to find out how serious it was. I went straight to, that is, wrote LTO head Edgar Galvante—a former police general known for his integrity and efficiency—and asked for the deeds of sale and registration papers of the Porsche Aquino had bought and sold.
Galvante’s reply and that of his staff: LTO records, which are in a computerized database, do not show Aquino having a Porsche 911, nor a BMW he said he sold to buy the new sports car.
LTO records show that the only cars under his name are a 2003 Toyota Land Cruiser he registered in June 30, 2003 and a 2016 Ford Explorer registered June 15, 2016, two weeks before he stepped down as President.
I wondered, maybe the LTO data base would no longer report somebody as an owner of a car if he had sold it later. The LTO staff replied: “It will be recorded on our database if Mr. Aquino transferred the ownership of vehicles under his name.”
The only possible conclusions from these are obviously as follows:
First, the LTO staff is misinformed, and its data base would not be able to report information on a person buying a car and then selling it later.
Second, Aquino was lying. He never bought a Porsche nor did he sell it. It was a gift from a Chinese-Filipino tycoon, as had been the rumors during that time.
If that were the case, Aquino violated the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices law, which deems criminal the acceptance by a government official of such an expensive gift. The law defines such a gift as those from a person “other than a member of the public officer’s immediate family, in behalf of himself or of any member of his family or relative within the fourth civil degree, either by consanguinity or affinity, even on the occasion of a family celebration or national festivity like Christmas, if the value of the gift is under the circumstances manifestly excessive.”
Aquino of course could easily prove that he did buy and sell a Porsche: He can just release to the public copies of the LTO registrations of his Porsche, and, please, the deeds of sale. I’m still suspicious that it was a gift to him by a Chinese-Filipino tycoon whose business boomed during his regime.
That tycoons would be so bold as to give a President such expensive gifts was of course demonstrated by Duterte’s disclosure he was recently given a Mercedes-Benz, which he ordered impounded at the Presidential Security Group headquarters until it could be disposed of.
He could have just kept it secret, and when discovered by the press—as was the case with Aquino and his Porsche in 2011—he could have said he bought it with funds raised by selling his old car. Duterte didn’t and even publicly announced the gift.
Duterte said he is happy with the 1988 pickup he has been using ever since he became mayor of Davao City.
What a different President this is, although I’ve heard rumors that while he definitely is not into cars, he likes watches.