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‘Palace carping at petty issues’

THE Palace was only being “petty” when Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda remarked that Vice President Jejomar Binay “is the only Vice President in Philippine history who was given an official residence,” Binay’s camp said on Saturday.

Binay
“Vice President Jejomar C. Binay has raised substantive issues but Malacañang chose to be petty instead by raising the issue of the Coconut Palace,” Binay’s spokesperson Joey Salgado said after Lacierda criticized Binay for trying to portray an “underdog image” which he said is a “gross misrepresentation.”

“Sadly, they don’t have the complete facts,” Salgado said, noting that the government was duty-bound to provide him an office as vice president.

“The Coconut Palace is still owned by the Government Service Insurance System. The Office of the Vice President is a mere tenant. In fact, since 2010 the GSIS has increased the rent from P400,000 a month to P440,000 a month,” Salgado said.

“It seems that the Palace is now doing an accounting of the supposed favors extended by the President to the Vice President, treating public funds as personal monies given to officials and agencies who, in turn, are expected to be eternally grateful,” he said.

Salgado said Binay did not beg for supposed favors or alms, “he simply wanted an office for the Vice President befitting the second highest official of the land. Future Vice Presidents can now look forward to having such an address.”

The Coconut Palace was commissioned in 1978 by former First Lady Imelda Marcos as an official government guest house and was supposed to be first used by Pope John Paul II in 1981, but the pope chose to stay at the Apostolic Nunciature.

Salgado noted the Coconut Palace was eventually neglected and was nearly decrepit when it was given new relevance when the Vice President moved in.

“Instead of asking for an accounting of favors, it would have been better if the Palace instead answered the issue of widespread hunger and poverty and the gaping ineptness of the government,” Salgado said.

But Lacierda backtracked on Saturday and said it was not questioning Binay’s use of the Coconut Palace as his official residence.

“It was respected in that every possible means was found, particularly if at the behest of the Vice President in order to be of service to the people, to give him every opportunity, dignity and convenience, to be useful,” Lacierda said in a statement.

“If today the Vice President’s spokesmen feel compelled to justify their principal or his actions or even motivations, that is their right—but irrelevant as to the opportunities the Vice President was given to be part of the solution and not part of the nation’s problems,” Lacierda said.

At the same time, the Palace also admitted that poverty alleviation is taking time after a the independent think tank IBON Foundation revealed that Filipinos do not believe poverty or corruption had gone down in the last three months.

“We accept that,” said Lacierda’s deputy Abigail Valte. “Poverty alleviation takes time. No one can say that that can be considerably reduced or removed within three months,” Valte said in an interview with government-owned radio station dzRB.

IBON’s survey conducted from May 13 to 23, but whose results were made public only June 25, showed 72.3 percent of Filipinos do not believe poverty has been reduced in the last three months.

Based on the survey, only 17.9 percent said they believe so, and 9.6 percent of the respondents answered they do not know.

A similar survey in January 2015 showed 71.7 percent said they do not believe poverty went down in the last three months, while only 17.1 percent believed it did.

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