New look in Malacañang
December 3, 1955
by Leon O. Ty
The days when Malacañang occupants and members of their families used public funds as well as government properties for personal benefit are gone. That practice has been completely outlawed by the present incumbent. Since he took his oath of office, Mr. Magsaysay and the members of his family have seen to it that personal expenses are paid out of their private funds.
PERHAPS you have wondered whether the former Malacañang occupants—from Manuel L. Quezon to Elpidio Quirino—paid their personal expenses and those of the immediate members of their families out of private or public funds.
Since matters of this nature have never been made public in the past, we taxpayers can only guess and speculate. Although in one particular case — that of an ex-President’s favorite daughter — we remember now that when she had color pictures taken of herself by a friend of ours, the photographer was paid with a treasury warrant. There was no doubt that the amount, about a hundred pesos, came from the public coffers. That was downright misuse of the people’s money.
Sometime after Elpidio Quirino assumed the presidency, following the death of Manuel Acuña Roxas, charge after charge was filed by certain congressmen against the Apo. One of the accusations was that he had used public funds for the unwarranted purchase of a fabulous bed said to have cost Juan de la Cruz no less than P5,000), a P500 urinal for his granddaughter, and for the payment of piano lessons for his daughter and a lot of other things intended for his personal comfort or the benefit of members of his family.
It cannot be easily denied that after these things were made public, many Filipino citizens began to look upon the Malacañang occupant and the members of his family with a certain degree of disaffection. Maybe we are not very far from the truth when we say that unwise use of the people’s money may have been one of the causes behind the eventual downfall of the Liberal Party.
What about the present occupant of Malacañang? Is he as reckless with the taxpayer’s money as one of his predecessors?
For the first time, in the long history of Malacañang and those who have tenanted it, the uncensored story of the people living there now can be told. This writer was surprised to find that the President was only too glad to give all the facts we wanted, in connection with this article.
We decided to write this article after Chief of Staff Jesus Vargas asked us this question:
“Did you know that the President paid the Philippine Air Force for the use of that plane Pagasa which took us to Tacloban last October 20 on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the landing of the American liberation forces there?”
“No fooling, did he really pay?” we inquired somewhat skeptically.
“He did,” General Vargas assured us. “He paid exactly P1,642.57 out of his personal funds for that trip to Tacloban and back to Manila on the same day.”
“But it was an official trip,” we argued. “Why should the President pay for it out of his own money?”
“Better asked the President himself,” the army boss suggested.
So, we saw RM and asked him if what General Vargas had told us was really true. We could hardly believe it for the simple reason that that trip to Tacloban City last October 20 was, in our opinion, definitely official. The President had been invited to deliver the main speech at the commemoration ceremonies of the landing of the American forces of liberation in that locality. To us, it was an official trip.
But Mr. Magsaysay had other ideas. He said:
“If I had delivered only that speech during their commemoration ceremony while we were in Tacloban, that would have been a purely official trip. But don’t you remember that I also spoke before the Lion’s Club of Tacloban and followed that with another speech before provincial and municipal officials and public school teachers of Leyte? I talked politics in that last speech. Lest I be accused of using a government airplane for electioneering, I had to see to it that the air force was fully paid for the use of that plane we took to Leyte.”
We reminded Mr. Magsaysay of an incident in the past during a fiesta or celebration in Vigan several years ago, when no less than half a dozen air force planes were used to ferry back and forth—from Manila to Ilocos Sur and back — “distinguished visitors” of the former President. That veritable junket to Vigan became so scandalous, as readers will probably recall, that Cipriano Primicias, while still a member of the House, and several Nacionalistas in that chamber, delivered fiery privileged speeches denouncing it. We are positive that the Philippine Air Force did not collect one centavo from the then Malacañang occupant — from his private funds — for the use of those government planes.
“But that was the Old Look,” President Magsaysay said, smiling. “We have inaugurated a New Look in our administration. That practice of utilizing government property for private use belongs to the past. I know how our people detested it. They will despise me if I continue that practice. So, no more of that. In this administration, we’ll show our people that the things they bought with their money will be used for their benefit.”
Every now and then, the President invites friends to breakfast or lunch with him in the Palace. But no one can accuse him of using part of his discretionary funds, P100,000 annually, to entertain his cronies. He pays for the food consumed by his guests.
When an aide told us about this, we couldn’t help but laugh. We thought he was pulling our leg. But he was not. There are many cash vouchers in the hands of the Malacañang auditor to show that Juan de la Cruz does not shoulder the cost of Mr. Magsaysay’s personal hospitality or generosity, much less that of the members of his family.
Whenever his daughters hold parties either in the Palace or elsewhere, every centavo of expense is paid out of the President’s pocket.
Teresita, the eldest daughter, had her picture taken by a local photographer late last year. The bill was P72. That amount was not paid with a treasury warrant because the money came from the personal funds of Mr. and Mrs. Magsaysay.
There is a magnificent life size painting by Fernando Amorsolo of the First Lady now adorning the President’s bedroom. The painter sent a bill for P1,200. But when payment was due, he knocked off the P200. If you think that the cost of that painting was charged to the Chief Executive’s discretionary fund, you are wrong again.
What practically surprised us this week was to learn that even the newspapers and magazines in the Palace are paid out of the President’s personal funds. There are vouchers showing payments to the various Manila daily papers in the name of Mrs. Magsaysay.
To us, this particular phase of the official behavior of the President’s and his lady definitely gives a NEW LOOK to government circles. It is decidedly a NEW LOOK because we personally know of certain government big shots who not only subscribe for newspapers and magazines for use of their homes but also throw lavish parties from time to time at Juan de la Cruz’s expense. As everyone knows, there are government officials who have used and grossly misused, say, jeeps and cars assigned to them by virtue of the positions they hold. They might take a leaf from the book of Ramon Magsaysay.
Every once in a while, the First Lady and the children go to Baguio. Once they are there, the President calls them up by long distance telephone at least once a day. The telephone tolls are personally paid for by him, not by Juan de la Cruz.
It is no secret that many of those who stand high in the councils of our government take advantage of their positions. In the past, we have known of at least a couple of high officials who had private buildings constructed costing thousands of pesos. The constructor put up the buildings on the strength of the bigwigs’ promises that they would pay every centavo of the entire amount stated in the contracts. But after these edifices were finished, the government officials conveniently forgot all about their financial obligations. It is refreshing to note that the Magsaysays have not yet constructed a house since they moved into the Palace.
Then there are some topflight officials who pay no food, laundry, clothing and other bills because they regularly get these things from various “admirers” mostly businessmen, of course, “for free.”
In strong contrast are the Magsaysays. The hundreds of vouchers that we looked over before writing this article showed that the President’s clothes—except probably those he has received as gifts from intimate friends _ have been paid for. There are scores of vouchers for kodak films for Mila and Junior. Even the pencils that the President’s children use in school are paid out of their private funds. Radio repairs are charged against either the President or the First Lady. Photographs that Mrs. Magsaysay gives to friends are paid for, as the filed vouchers will readily show. A number of pictures of the First Lady and her daughters taken at Malacañang Park and aboard the yacht some time ago were also paid for by them, when they could have asked the official Malacañang photographer to take the pictures.
One of the vouchers we examined showed that Mrs. Magsaysay had paid for calling cards ordered from the Bureau of Printing, Scrapbooks and albums, also made in that bureau, had likewise been paid for to the last centavo with the President’s own money.
There is a motor pool in Malacañang where all the vehicles in the Palace are repaired. Needless to mention, that motor pool has a ready supply of tires, auto spare parts and all sorts of things needed to fix a car. But take note of this: whenever junior Ramon Magsaysay’s car needs a new tire, he buys it outside, and his parents pay for it. If the auto radio gets out of order, Junior takes it to a private shop and the cost of the service is borne by his father.
No individual can look over the hundreds of vouchers that we have examined without being completely and absolutely convinced that truly the Magsaysays have introduced a NEW morale tone, a NEW code of official behavior, a NEW LOOK in the Palace of the Filipino people.
If only the rest of Philippine officialdom would follow in the footsteps of our President! Or, is it asking too much of many of our government bigwigs to be at least fundamentally honest?