When Presidential Priorities And Troop Safety Clash (Updated With GMA Plan To Buy Executive Jet Junked)
Perhaps it’s just me. But maybe not.
There is a simmering feeling of sadness and disgust as I read two reports:
The horrible fighting in Basilan between government troops and apparently combined MILF and Abu Sayyaf forces where 23 of our gallant men are killed. The surviving soldiers account shockingly revealed how even their reinforcement were ambushed by the rebels It also emerges that the government troops apparently did not have combat air support.
The other story before me:
Malacanang running a paid ad calling for bidders for an executive presidential jet with PhP 1.2-B being allocated from the 2009 national budget.
The montage shows such a jet confirmed for executive use and considered a brand of choice by executive travelers:
The aircraft must be “factory new, twin-engine (turbo-fan engines), pressurized, fitted with auxiliary power unit, and with VIP cabin configuration.”The type of aircraft to be offered should have been used as a VIP/Executive aircraft by the country of origin and by at least two countries. Interested bidders and suppliers to participate as long as they have a repair shop within the Southeast Asian region with the necessary tools, equipment, and skilled personnel. These “should be ready and available before the delivery of the aircraft.”
Signed: Atty.Lynn Danao-Moreno, assistant executive secretary and chairperson, Office of the President bids and awards committee.
Presidential spokesman for economic affairs Gary Olivar:
It’s merely a purchase that would benefit not just the President but her successors. The President does not own a fixed-wing aircraft that she can use in travels to parts of the country and abroad. The Presidential Airlift Wing has two fixed-wing aircraft, an F-28 and F-27, that are 29 and 50 years old, respectively, and difficult to maintain. The PAW believes that they need at least two fixed-wing jets for presidential visits, one primary and one back-up. Right now, there is only one available, the F-28, and [President Arroyo] charters civilian aircraft for her airlift requirement. This can be very costly and poses high security risk” There is limited opportunity to check the aircraft before the President uses it. The aircraft is controlled by civilian pilots and crew while PAW pilots sit as co-pilots, which could lead to lapses in procedure. The President needs to have exclusive use of the aircraft. These are basically questions of security and cost. Contrary to what people are saying, the President is concerned about cost that is why this airplane is being considered for purchase not for her use only because she will only be here six to seven months but for the benefit of the lucky persons who will succeed her in office.”
Our troops are dying in the field for lack of combat air support while the enemy ambushes them and here in Manila a focus is on shopping for a jet of comfort and security for an outgoing President???
Pres. Arroyo is flying to Zamboanga City today.
Her objective is to supposedly to manifest her “concern” for the troops.
“Naturally, something like this saddens not just the President but all of us who are invested in the outcome of this prolonged war in the South,” spokesman Oklivar told reporters as a briefing.
“She will be getting a full update or briefing on the situation on the ground and with that as basis, she will lead in the planning and decision making that needs to be done to follow up on the successes that have been won in the battlefield in this most recent encounter,’
Ms Arroyo will also preside over a command conference at the Western Mindanao Command headquarters in Zamboanga City, visit the wounded and pay her respects to soldiers killed in the clashes.
This is the minimum Mrs. Arroyo MUST DO.
(As the President prepared to condole with the surviving casualties, and pay her respects to the dead, Western Mindanao Command chief Maj. Gen. Ben Dolorfino told DZMM radio the families of those killed in action would each get at least Ph~P 250,ooo in death benefits while the wounded would also get monetary aid depending on the seriousness of their injury.)
She can do more by reviewing her priorities and use the money for her presidential jet to give the troops proper combat support from the air.
Philippine Daily Inquirer is now reporting this:
Press Secretary Cerge Remonde – I am formally announcing the president has ordered the cancellation of the purchase of a presidential jet. The President “does not want more criticism about her spending. The purchase of the jet had been cancelled even though this “would have benefited the next presidents.
As I said yesterday when this corner questioned the propriety of the plan its cancellation is the best Mrs. Arroyo can do.