Activist on Marcos' latest SG trip: 'Why the silence? Why the secrecy?'

Benise Balaoing, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 03 2022 01:50 PM | Updated as of Oct 03 2022 02:13 PM

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MANILA – "Why the silence? Why the secrecy?"

These were the questions raised Monday by Bayan Secretary-General Renato Reyes Jr. regarding the weekend trip of President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos, Jr. to Singapore for the F1 Grand Prix.

“If it is official, then they should have announced it early on. Why the silence? Why the secrecy? Why the afterthought, issuing statements already when there was public uproar?” Reyes said on ANC. 

“Why the strange silence on the part of Malacanang, unable to explain? If it was an official trip, they should have been able to explain it at the onset, hindi ganto yung sa ending na lang,” he added.

Reporters have been trying to confirm Marcos’ trip to Singapore since last week, but Palace officials said then that they had “no information yet” about the matter.

The Palace remained mum until Sunday evening even as pictures of Marcos, his son Ilocos Norte 1st Dist. Rep. Sandro Marcos and cousin House Speaker Martin Romualdez attending the event already made rounds on social media.

First Lady Liza Marcos was also captured in a photo of the event shared by Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

The office of Romualdez, as of Sunday evening, has not issued any comment as well on the circulating photos.

It was only early Monday that Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles revealed that Marcos had a “productive” visit to Singapore over the weekend, as she shared a Facebook post by Singaporean Minister for Manpower Tan See Leng.

"Pinagpatibay niya ang mga pangunahing usapan sa huling state visit sa bayan na ito, at pinatuloy ang paghihikayat sa pag invest sa bayang Pilipinas," Cruz-Angeles said in a Facebook post.

Marcos was in Singapore on Sept. 6-7 for a state visit, his second overseas destination since assuming the presidency on June 30.

Reyes said the Marcos administration should be more transparent about the details of the trip especially if the Filipino people are the ones footing the bill.

“First news reports that came out, it was a private jet. Then later on, we saw posts on Facebook saying that it was a Philippine Air Force Asset which was used. It was P2 bilion Gulf Stream jet supposedly with command and control capabilities, but was used for a leisure trip to Singapore by a president and his entourage.” 

“Who are paying for the other people on the president’s entourage? His son was there. The House speaker was there. Another member of the House was also seen at the place. They had plus ones. So who are paying for these? Tayo ba, taxpayers?” he asked.

“In a time when public debt has breached P13 trillion, we are deep in debt, why are we spending taxpayer’s money for these trips of Mr. Marcos which have no real impact on policymaking and the economy?” Reyes stressed.

Two lawmakers have also questioned Marcos’ trip to Singapore.

"Hindi pa man din bumababa ang tubig sa maraming palayan na tinamaan ng bagyong Karding, nauna ng lumipad pa-Singapore ang presidente para manood ng F1 grand prix," Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas said.

(Flooding has yet to subside in some farms affected by typhoon Karding, but Marcos has already flown to Singapore for the F1 Grand Prix.)

"Mabuti pa si Marcos Jr., may budget para sa VIP access kasama pa ang pamilya. Samantalang ang mga Pilipino, halos wala ng makain sa patuloy na pagtaas ng presyo ng bilihin,” she added.

(It's good that Marcos has budget for VIP access for himself and his family, even as many Filipinos have nothing to eat as prices of goods rise.)

Brosas said a single day pass for the F1 grand prix costs around SG$128 (P5,300) to SG$988 (P40,570), while three-day passes cost between SG$208 (P8,540) and SG$1,288 (P52,900). 

She also claimed that hospitality packages, which include prime views, exclusive access, food and beverage offerings, cost SG$1,766 (P72,500) to SG$9,898 (P406,440).

ACT Teachers Party-list Rep. France Castro called on Malacanang and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to categorically state whether or not Marcos used the G280 Gulfstream to go to the Grand Prix.

"If indeed Pres. Marcos Jr. used government resources for obviously personal, extravagant, and frivolous junket in time of economic hardship, then it is like a punch in the gut of hungry Filipinos," she said.

"As it is, his whole Singapore GrandPrix trip is insensitive and callous in light of the suffering of Filipinos," she added.

A top House official, however, defended the trip.
 
House Majority Leader and Zamboanga City 2nd District Rep. Manuel Jose Dalipe said he sees nothing wrong with Marcos’ travel to Singapore.

In an interview with House reporters after the monthly Flag Ceremony at the Batasang Pambansa, Dalipe explained that all Southeast Asian leaders were invited to the event.

"If I can parang I was, there was also an invitation, pero if I'm not mistaken, yung invitation is for leaders of Southeast Asia. So I think the government officials of Singapore to my understanding were inviting officials from the different parts of Southeast Asia," he said.

"So, if you can recall in the recent trip, pumunta sila ng Indonesia. Pumunta ang ating mahal na Pangulo sa Singapore (our president went to Indonesia and Singapore). And I think that is where that invitation was relayed,” he continued.

"I think it so happened, it is an event for them to get together and socialize. And you know, let’s face it right now, if you look at the political landscape of Southeast Asia, si President BBM ang ating, siya ang tumatayong (President BBM is like the leader) leader for Southeast Asia. So hindi mo maiiwasan na imbitahin siya (you cannot help but invite him) in that event where all other leaders of Southeast Asia are also invited.”

“I think there's nothing wrong with that," Dalipe said.

He could not, however, explain why the trip was unannounced.

Dalipe also said he is unsure as to whether or not Romualdez was also invited alongside the chief executive.

“Wala na ‘kong details, kasi andito ako, naiwan ako... If hindi lang busy ang schedule ko, I might probably have been there, too, but to show support to our leaders. Pero eto, nandito."

(I have no details because I am here... If my schedule wasn't full, I might probably have been there, too, to show support to our leaders. But I'm here.)

Cavite 8th District Rep. Aniela Bianca Tolentino was also spotted in pictures from the event that are now circulating on social media.

- with reports from RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News