DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 27 January) — President Rodrigo Duterte has dismissed several officials for what he said are “excessive foreign travels” but he has dismissed as well criticisms about his weekly travel to his home city and “comfort zone,” claiming no government funds are spent for his Davao trips.
Duterte, the country’s 16th Philippine President and first Mindanawon to lead the nation, has been coming home to Davao City every week since he assumed the post on June 30, 2016.
Davao City is home to Duterte, who served as OIC Vice Mayor from 1986 to 1987, mayor from 1988 to 1998, 2001 to 2010 and 2013 to 2016; 1st district Representative to Congress from 1998 to 2001, and Vice Mayor from 2010 to 2013.
“Tignan mo sa record. Wala kang, wala kang makitang gastos sa gobyerno sa uwi-uwi ko” (Check the records. You won’t find public funds spent for my going home),” Duterte told MindaNews at the Presidential Guest House on January 12.
The Philippine President’s official residence is in Malacanang where Duterte’s predecessors stayed during their Presidency. While in Malacanang, Duterte resides in Bahay Pagbabago, across the Pasig River, (named Bahay Pangarap when his predecessor, Benigno Aquino III, was the occupant).
Duterte is the fourth President — after 55 years — from outside Luzon, the country’s vote-richest island and home to 12 Presidents.
Three other Presidents hailed from the Visayas: Sergio Osmena of Cebu City (1944 to 1946); Manuel Acuña Roxas of Capiz (1946 to 1948); and Carlos Polistico Garcia of Talibon, Bohol, from March 18, 1957 to December 30, 1961. Then Vice President Garcia assumed the post of President when Ramon Magsaysay was killed in a plane crash on March 17, 1957 and was later that year elected to a four-year term.
MindaNews asked if Duterte was going to spend more time in Davao than in Malacanang, as Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque told reporters earlier that day in Valencia, Bukidnon.
“I’ve always been spending more time in Malacanang. I only come here one, two days, were it not for the birthday of (Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez) but going by the rule of thumb, a man has to rest and I have to recover sleep and I cannot get the stress out of me if I’m there in Malacanang. I’m just a phone call away from trouble everywhere, anywhere. Dito, hindi ako tumatanggap ng – unless there’s an explosion,” the President said. (see “The Mayor as President)
He meant he gets to rest in his “comfort zone” unless there’s a bomb explosion in the city such as what happened in early September 2016.
The President comes home usually late Thursday night or in the early hours of Friday, and returns to Malacanang Sundays or Mondays.
MindaNews asked on the additional costs in maintaining two households — Malacanang in Metro Manila, and Panacanang, as the Presidential Guest House in Panacan, Davao City, is referred to.
Duterte’s reply: “Di ba sinabi ko naman na, you must have heard when I was interviewed that I will come home every night then maybe catch breakfast sa eroplano. What does that tell you? Meaning to say I was really explaining to you, to all, to you that the comfort zone is here, not in Manila. So if I want to rest, that’s why I said I might take the last flight and the early morning flight, go to sleep early, take a bath, have breakfast on the plane. Sandwich man lang ako.”
“So you spend your own money?” MindaNews asked. Duterte replied, in jest, “Langis sa kili kili, lumilipad na, mas madali” (oil in the armpit, flying now, it’s faster).
“It’s my secret but I can travel without using…” He did not finish his sentence but apparently meant public funds.
At least twice in the first days of his Presidency, Duterte returned to Davao from Manila (or returned to Manila) using commercial airlines and upon arrival in Davao City, rode a convoy until his residence. But Duterte detested returning home in a convoy to his modest house in a subdivision in Matina, some 18 kilometers from the airport, explaining it is more costly as the convoy includes security escorts and an ambulance, causes traffic and delays motorists because the Presidential Security Group has to clear the way.
He has since returned home from the airport here using a helicopter and takes the helicopter as well during official functions in the city to avoid convoy-causing traffic.
Duterte also explained how he hates foreign travels, especially long-haul flights but would fly to India for the India-ASEAN Summit on January 24 to honor the invitation of the host government. The President chaired the ASEAN last year.
Also last year, on November 22, Duterte issued Memorandum Circular No. 35, “clarifying and reinforcing existing rules and regulations on foreign travel authorities, travel entitlements, and travel tax exemptions, which require the approval of the Office of the President.”
MC 35 provides that no official travel abroad shall be allowed unless it satisfies all of the following minimum criteria: “the purpose of the trip is strictly within the mandate of the requesting government official or personnel; the projected expenses for the trip are not excessive; and the trip is expected to bring substantial benefit to the country.” (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)