A luxurious jet for government officials might need butlers

Published October 17, 2019, 4:39 PM

by Dean Mel Sta. Maria

PAPER VIEW

By DEAN MEL STA. MARIA

Atty. Mel Sta. Maria

Dean Mel Sta. Maria

It was reported that the Defense Department will be buying a Gulfstream G280. Defense Secretary Lorenzana explained: “Let me emphasize that we do not consider the G280 as a luxury aircraft, but a necessary component of the AFP modernization program for command and control of our Armed Forces to manage operations on air, land, and sea.”

Lorenzana’s justification is problematic.

Considering something as luxurious or not is quite subjective, easily contradicted by what is actually at hand. For example, it is foolish for people to say “we do not consider” a huge diamond ring as expensive when objectively it is veritablyso.

How about a Gulf stream G280? It is a super-mid-size business jet. In his article “Here’s a look at the $25 million Gulfstream G280 that’s designed to take on Embraer and Bombardier”posted on July 27, 2018 in the Business Insider, aviation correspondent

Benjamin Zhang, described the luxury airplane. The G280 is built and made for sale by Gulfstream to commercially compete against two airplane companies: Embraer and Bombadier. Upon entering, “you are greeted by the plane’s galley complete with stone countertops.”

Zhang continued: “the cabin has four different seating configurations with room of up to 10 passengers.” It is spacious: “six foot three inches tall and seven foot, two inches wide” with “very large entertainment screens.” The cabin is “controlled using an Apple I-pod based digital management system.”

The G280 further features, according to Zhang, the following: “Between each seat is a retractable table” and “the seats themselves are plush and comfortable. Gulfstreams take their seats and fittings very seriously.” At one side, there is even a long sofa “upholstered in fabric which makes for a more comfortable sleeping experience when it’s berthed into a bed.”A “bathroom complete with sink and a toilet” is available. Photographs show that the seats look like expensively-cushioned lazy-boys and the bathroom like a hotel room’s half-comfort room.

For pictures of the interior and exterior of the G280, access and read Benjamin Zhang’s article at https://www.businessinsider.com/gulfstream-g280-private-jet-tour-photos-2018-7.

The government must answer the following queries:

First, if one Gulfstream G280 is worth about US$25 million equivalent to P1.3 billion at a $1-to-P52-exchange-rate, how did the amount reach P2 billion?

Second, assuming that the Gulfstream G280 has been customized to serve the purposes of the Armed Forces, how was it done? Certainly replacing the expensive lazy-boy-style seats and cozy divans with cheaper practical seats and removing the other amenities will considerably decrease the price. Why the increase?

Third, how can the super-mid-size jet be filled up with other sophisticated military gadgets? Will these add-ons and modifications not affect the plane’s effectiveness in terms of speed and safety, especially when it can be detected by ordinary radar?

Fourth, how exactly will this G280 be utilized? Surely, it cannot carry heavy bulk loads of goods, ammunitions
and heavy weapons.

Government transparency is imperative.

P2,000,000,000 of taxpayers’ money will be spent. That amount can build thousands of decent houses for our soldiers who put their lives on the line everyday. Not only should the contract stipulations be made known, all the public officials, government lawyers and private persons, if any,participating in the negotiations must bedivulged. Accountability must be assured and liability — administrative, civil and criminal — must be in their minds as deterrence against acts or omissions causing serious damage to the state.

The Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act provides that corrupt practices include “entering on behalf of the government, into any contract or transaction manifestly and grossly disadvantageous to the same, whether or not the public officer profited or will profit thereby.” The penalties are “imprisonment for not less than one year nor more than ten years, perpetual disqualification from public office, and confiscation or forfeiture in favor of the government of any prohibited interest and unexplained wealth manifestly out of proportion to his/her salary and other lawful income.”

In the ultimate analysis, is a mid-size jet necessary for the Defense Department, and if it is, must it be the luxurious Gulfstream G280? What paramount interest is to be served in the purchase of this two-billion-peso-aircraft?Will this ultra-expensive plane inspire our soldiers and sailors and increase their effectiveness in the battlefield and in the West Philippine Sea?

There are just too many questions. I hope there will be no occasion to ask why butlers are engaged to serveprivileged
government officials in their G280 trips. If that happens, will the justification be: “We do not consider” butlers as extravagant?

 
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