ANN/THE STRAITS TIMES – President Ferdinand Marcos Jr drew flak for flying to Singapore to watch the Formula One Grand Prix just days after Typhoon Noru pummelled parts of the Philippines.
Photos of Marcos, his relatives, their friends and political allies watching the race from inside the exclusive F1 Paddock Club went viral over the weekend.
He was joined by four family members, three of whom are also elected officials: First Lady Louise Araneta-Marcos; his son, Ilocos Norte, 1st District Representative Sandro Marcos; his cousin, House Speaker Martin Romualdez; and the latter’s wife, Tingog party-list Representative Yedda Romualdez.
Reporters repeatedly asked Marcos’ office last week to confirm his rumoured Grand Prix trip, but officials initially claimed they had no information. His staff usually updates journalists and his social media pages of his official whereabouts.
His spokesman Trixie Cruz-Angeles finally gave confirmation only yesterday morning, after Singapore’s Minister for Manpower Tan See Leng confirmed Marcos’ visit.
Dr Tan said in his Facebook post that they were able to “affirm our bilateral economic relationships and strengthen collaborations in energy cooperation as well as exchange views on manpower policies on the sidelines of the race”.
Marcos was in Singapore in September for a state visit, securing PHP356.65 billion worth of investment pledges for the Philippines.
It is unclear for now if he spent taxpayers’ money to fund his Grand Prix trip. He is the only son and namesake of the late president Ferdinand Marcos Sr, whose 21-year rule was marred by reports of rampant corruption, killings and disappearances of critics, and media oppression.
A farmers’ group and several activists found Marcos’ Grand Prix weekend “insensitive” to the plight of Filipinos who are still recovering from the effects of Typhoon Noru.
Government data showed Noru’s onslaught caused damage worth PHP3.077 billion in agriculture and PHP304 million in infrastructure, flattening swathes of farmland and submerging villages in flood waters.
The typhoon killed at least 12 people and injured 52 others, while five remain missing.
“While Filipino farmers are still reeling from the damaging effects of the super typhoon, Marcos Jr is ‘living the life’ and having a relaxing time abroad,” said leader of farmers’ group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas Rafael Mariano.