“Win or lose, we go shopping after the election” – Imelda Marcos
By Raïssa Robles
President Rodrigo Duterte, despite all his claims of a poverty-stricken background—is a multi-millionaire. A billionaire even, if Senator Antonio Trillanes’ records of the president’s bank accounts are confirmed.
So, it’s no skin off his back to go shopping anywhere in the world.
However, as head of state, he seems rather dense about the political implications of his weekend retail therapy in Hong Kong.
As Filipinos reeled from rising prices, partly brought about by the Duterte government’s TRAIN tax law, the President and his “family” secretly went to Hong Kong.
Writer Katrina Stuart-Santiago said what I feel.
And former Congressman Teddy Casino of the Bayan Muna party list group said it so cuttingly:
Q: Bakit sa Hong Kong nag-shopping ang First Family?
A: Kasi masyadong mahal dito sa Pilipinas.
— Teddy Casiño (@teddycasino) October 6, 2018
Yes, Duterte had all the right to go to Hong Kong. Just as former President Benigno Aquino III had all the right to buy a sports car using his own money. And yet Aquino was blasted for his purchase, because it smacked of political insensitivity.
UPDATE: For those who think that I am only critical of Duterte and no other President, please read my story dated 2011:
So how does Duterte think his jetting off to go shopping will play with Filipinos at a time when the country is reeling from sudden and huge price increases escalated by the president’s economic policies? Does he even care?
As Congressman Joey Salceda said:
Salceda: Bigas, nangungunang dahilan ng mataas na inflation. Pangalawa ang isda, pangatlo ang petrolyo.
— DZMM TeleRadyo (@DZMMTeleRadyo) October 7, 2018
And what was the President doing?
Shopping for clothes, apparently.Duterte has taken full responsibility for the rise in prices.
He told a roomful of generals on October 4:
“Wala man akong masabi but I assume for responsibility for the rising prices because I am the — I am here. I am the worker assigned here to answer for all of these things.
However, he claimed he could not do anything about it:
“Wala man rin akong magawa na every time there’s a rise of oil, everything also rises. Pero itong sa — dito ako sir mag-concentrate sa corruption. I am doing it. For God’s sake, I am doing it.
Which means, he is telling the Filipino people—just grin and bear it.
It’s absolutely not true the issue is out of his hands.
He can do something by reducing the excise taxes recently slapped by his TRAIN1 on petroleum products. By reducing the sugar tax on beverage.
This is the very first time we have a government SO GREEDY FOR NEW TAXES that it’s uncaringly ramming through a series of financial measures guaranteed to squeeze the general public. Duterte’s economic technocrats justify the tax increases because of the need to raise more money for his BUILD, BUILD, BUILD projects.
The Duterte government did lower the income tax rates. But it’s an easy guess that when you examine your monthly expenses for food, transport, water, medicines, etc, the windfall from the lowered income tax rates won’t even cover the additional expenses incurred from the spike in goods and services.
Take for example transport. The government has just granted new rates for ordinary taxis. We are not even talking of Grab here. The P40 flag down rate of ordinary taxis remains the same. But every 100 meters (the LTFRB claims per two minute “travel time”) will add P2. And every kilometer, the taxi meter will jump by P13.50, on top of the ticking rate..
Because of this, a taxi trip from Quezon City to Makati will probably cost up to P100 more.
The Duterte government doesn’t seem to give a hoot about the dreadful hammering the public across all classes is taking. Perhaps it’s confident Filipinos will bear the pain because of Duterte’s popularity. But how will that popularity look when contrasted against reports of presidential shopping trips to Hong Kong?
But then, of course, we Filipinos all know one thing: Duterte, the lawmakers who approved the TRAIN law, and the economic technocrats don’t feel the pinch.
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Here is a link to today’s South China Morning Post piece on Duterte’s trip to Hong Kong which I co-bylined witih Christy Leung: