Marcos Jr. administration

Malacañang defends ‘private time’ of ‘matinee idol’ Marcos at Singapore Grand Prix

Bea Cupin
Malacañang defends ‘private time’ of ‘matinee idol’ Marcos at Singapore Grand Prix

GRAND PRIX TRIP. President Marcos flies to Singapore to watch the reopening of the Grand Prix. In this photo, he's joined by his cousin House Speaker Martin Romualdez (right).

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.'s Facebook page

(1st UPDATE) Newly sworn in Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin insists it is 'irrelevant' whether the trip was paid for privately or through government funds

MANILA, Philippines – It’s criticism that’s “insensitive” was how Lucas Bersamin, former Supreme Court chief justice and newly-appointed executive secretary, defended President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. from criticism over a weekend trip to Singapore to watch a Formula 1 race. 

Marcos flew to the city-state over the weekend to watch the resumption of the Singapore Grand Prix. The Palace, despite repeated queries by reporters, did not officially inform the public about the Singapore sojourn, held just weeks after Marcos first flew there for his second state visit, and barely a week after a super typhoon ravaged parts of some of the Philippines’ most populated regions.

Wala kaming direct knowledge kung paano funding niyan (We do not have direct knowledge of how the trip was funded), but I am sure if that was the trip of the President, you don’t need to be too particular about where the funds are sourced because he was still performing his role as president when he was abroad although that was not an official state visit,” said Bersamin on Tuesday, October 4, on the sidelines of a chit-chat with officers of the Malacañang Press Corps, or the official organization of reporters covering the President and the Palace. 

“Now, whether it was a fully paid trip or not is irrelevant,” added Bersamin. 

Marcos, accompanied by First Lady Liza Araneta-Marcos, his son Ilocos Norte 1st District Representative Sandro Marcos, and his cousin House Speaker Martin Romualdez, among others, watched the Grand Prix during what he would later say – in social media posts – was a “productive weekend.” 

Marcos’ undisclosed visit – major presidential activities, especially trips abroad, are usually disclosed to media and the public beforehand – comes as parts of the Philippines still reel from the effects of Typhoon Karding (Noru). It also happens amid memories of the excesses of the first Marcos presidency – that of the current President’s father, the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr. 

Malacañang mostly stayed mum on the trip, even as photos of Marcos and his entourage in Singapore went viral on social media. It was Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles – who tendered her resignation on October 4 – who first acknowledged the trip and called it “productive.” 

Marcos’ own acknowledgement of the trip – via his social media accounts – would come the evening of October 3. “It was fulfilling to have been invited alongside several dignitaries and to have met new business friends who showed that they are ready and willing to invest in the Philippines. Will be sharing more details on this at a later time,” he said, without giving further details. 

And while Marcos emphasizes the work aspect of the trip, Bersamin said the President was entitled to “private time.” 

“We cannot be defensive about it. I am not going to be defensive about it. I would even dismiss criticism…. ‘Yun ang insensitive, ‘yung criticism. (It’s the criticism that is insensitive.) You’re entitled to your own private time, private moments. If you have to do something, you should not be impacted by others who may not agree with you,” said Bersamin. 

Asked if Marcos’ trip violated laws that say government officials should “lead modest lives,” among other things, Bersamin said: “Alam mo, ating President naging matinee idol na (You know our President has turned into a matinee idol). His presence in an event like that, it will be appreciated. It’s not immodest, it’s not contrary to morals. Private time ‘yan.”

Bersamin, like Marcos, could not tell reporters what the Philippines gained from the trip, instead saying it was “too soon for us to tell.” He also insisted that the “trip [was] undertaken for the interests of the Philippines.” 

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III said the source of funds was anything but irrelevant. The veteran legislator said he would ask Bersamin about the Singapore trip when the latter goes to the Senate to defend the Office of the President’s 2023 budget. 

“That is very important to know. We all know na hindi siya (that it’s not an) official visit. But was it an official trip? That’s the question. Huwag na niyang pangunahan (He shouldn’t even ask) why we are asking the source of funds. It is important to know. If it’s personal, there might be only one follow-up question. If it’s official, there will be many follow-up questions,” said Pimentel in an October 5 interview with One News. – Rappler.com

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Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.