Should PSG protect Aquino’s girlfriend?
Should PSG protect Aquino’s girlfriend?
The Senate hearing on the Office of the President's proposed budget of P2.79 billion prompts a banter between friends Senator Escudero and Executive Secretary Ochoa

MANILA, Philippines – It was a friendly banter between two friends – Senator Francis Escudero and Executive Secretary Pacquito “Jojo” Ochoa Jr – except it happened during the Senate committee hearing on the budget of the Office of the President (OP) and for everyone to hear. 

The OP has a proposed budget of P2.79 billion ($63.4 million)* for 2015, the bulk of which – P1.9 billion ($43.2 million) – is going to Miscellaneous and Other Operating Expenses (MOOE).

Escudero was looking at the budget for the Presidential Security Group (PSG) when he asked Ochoa who among the President’s circle may be protected by the soldiers and cops who belong to the PSG.

“It’s supposed to cover the official family,” Ochoa replied.

This is where the conversation got interesting and got the two laughing during the budget hearing.

Escudero: Official. How about the unofficial?

Ochoa: There is no unofficial your honor. [Laughter]

Escudero: It’s a valid question. [Laughter] If the President is married with children, clearly the wife and the children will be covered. The parents, if they are still alive, may be covered. The siblings, possibly, too. The logic is you don’t want the President to be thinking of their personal safety while governing. But in a unique situation that we have now, the President is ready, available, and willing to mingle, would it be illegal to say the least if someone, for example, he is seeing for a long term would be covered, too? Can the President assign PSG agents to someone who is not part of his official family? At least, not yet. Are there limitations on that? If there are none, don’t you think it’s about time ether you do it by executive fiat or we do it by legislative fiat to define these things clearly?

Ochoa: You’re right, your honor. There should be clear guidelines.

The PSG security covers the President and his immediate family, the Vice President, former presidents, heads of state, and heads of government.

Escudero would proceed to press Ochoa on the President’s statements on a possible second term and how Malacañang is going to determine what his “bosses” – the people – want. Watch the video below.

Escudero: What if his bosses say run, that’s what he will do?

Ochoa: That’s how I understand it, your honor.

Escudero: If they say don’t run, he won’t do it?

Ochoa: That’s how I understand it, your honor.

Escudero: If they say amend the Constitution so he can run again, he’ll do it?

Ochoa: If that’s what it will take to do it, then that will be the route that will be taken, your honor.

Escudero: Out of curiosity, how do we find out what his bosses want?

ES Ochoa: (Smiles.)

Escudero: Short of a referendum… 

Ochoa: (Laughs.)

Escudero: It’s a difficult proposition, I understand. But it’s a question actually that is difficult to answer as well.

Ochoa: (Nods.)

Both Escudero and Ochoa are associated with the Samar group of Malacañang, referring to the people who in 2010 worked for Aquino’s presidential campaign but, for vice president, supported the candidacy of Jejomar Binay, not Aquino’s running mate Manuel Roxas II. – Carmela Fonbuena/

*US$1 = P44


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