Duterte tells ministers: Don't flash cash

A handout picture made available by the Davao City Mayor's Office on Wednesday shows President-elect Rodrigo Duterte (centre) and his Cabinet members taking a wefie in Davao City on Tuesday.
A handout picture made available by the Davao City Mayor's Office on Wednesday shows President-elect Rodrigo Duterte (centre) and his Cabinet members taking a wefie in Davao City on Tuesday.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Incoming Philippine president, known for being tough on graft, expects frugal living

DAVAO CITY • Incoming Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered his Cabinet to observe a frugal lifestyle, including chucking luxury cars and sumptuous food during meetings.

He said members of his incoming Cabinet should take economy flights and have simple meals like those enjoyed by ordinary Filipinos.

"(He said) no luxury vehicles, take economy class (flights), and don't use government funds for junkets. So I'm happy with that kind of announcement, because I think that's a good start," said Ms Judy Taguiwalo, Mr Duterte's choice for Social Welfare Secretary.

Said Mr Duterte's spokesman Salvador Panelo: "He said if we take business class even if we personally (paid) for it because we can afford it, people won't see that. What they will see is we are taking business class because they are paying for it.

"And you can take economy... and there are so many people who are struggling."

For Mr Panelo, the rule set out by his boss meant giving up his two-door Mercedes Benz for the time being. The longtime lawyer now uses his less expensive sedan, a Toyota Camry.

  • Austerity measures

  • Some of the instructions issued by Mr Rodrigo Duterte to his incoming Cabinet:

    •No luxury cars

    •No sumptuous food spreads during meetings

    •Take economy-class flights

"I'm even thinking of taking the jeepney," he said, referring to the most popular means of public transport in the country.

Mr Duterte met his Cabinet appointees on Tuesday at the presidential guesthouse in Davao City, where simple snacks were served.

"I think I got to eat only candy during the meeting. I think it really was austere, but that's okay, unlike in previous administrations when what was served was really sumptuous food," said Mr Panelo.

Mr Duterte said at the meeting that his record of stamping out corruption was the reason 16.6 million Filipinos voted for him.

"We're losing 300 million pesos (S$9 million) a day to smuggling. So I think if we stop that, it will be additional funds for health, education, housing," he said. He has marked the Bureau of Immigration as among the most corrupt, along with agencies such as the Bureau of Internal Revenue, Bureau of Customs and Land Transportation Office.

Said incoming immigration chief Jaime Morente: "I will just be guided by the incoming president to remove corruption and make the bureau efficient." Mr Morente is a former police chief of Davao City, where the crime rate is among the lowest in the country.

Meanwhile, the first order of business for Mr Ernesto Pernia, incoming chief of the National Economic and Development Authority, would be to see that the country's economic growth benefits the poor.

"So far, we have had high economic growth, but the benefits go to the high-income groups and very little goes to the lower-income groups," he said. "Our policy would be to make sure that economic growth is more pro-poor, more biased towards the lower-income groups."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 03, 2016, with the headline 'Duterte tells ministers: Don't flash cash'. Print Edition | Subscribe