MANILA, January 13, 2011 (AFP) – Philippine President Benigno Aquino said Thursday he had splashed out on a luxury Porsche sportscar, sparking criticism in a country where a third of the population live on less than a dollar a day.
“It appeared to be out of character. He had campaigned against luxury cars and here he is buying a Porsche,” Milo Tanchuling, secretary general of the activist group Freedom from Debt Coalition, told AFP.
“There is a danger that it will be viewed by many as a sign of extravagance and an unnecessary flaunting of wealth amid massive poverty.”
Local press cited a recent Aquino order banning government units from buying luxury cars as service vehicles.
The 50-year-old bachelor said he sold his old BMW and took out a personal loan to buy the Porsche, which he said allowed him a relaxing drive amid his gargantuan responsibilities.
“I was happy with the deal because its mileage was less than 10,000 kilometers,” Aquino said of the pre-owned vehicle, which local news reports said was a white entry-level model worth 4.5 million pesos ($102,000).
Aquino’s spokesman, Edwin Lacierda, defended his boss, saying the car’s value had depreciated substantially compared with a brand-new Porsche.
“If it was not depreciated, the president wouldn’t even buy it, wouldn’t even consider it,” Lacierda said.
Aquino won a landslide victory in the May election last year on an anti-corruption pledge of clean government and an end to wasteful spending that he said was the cause of widespread poverty.
Aquino has been known to take the wheel from his personal driver in the past during provincial trips, and once said he considered long drives on smooth highways as among the small luxuries he enjoys.