MANILA, PHILIPPINES - After junking the sirens, President Benigno Aquino has traded the black presidential limousine for his white SUV for his official functions.
On Friday, Aquino rode again his white Toyota Land Cruiser to the turnover of command of the Armed Forces at Camp Aguinaldo, getting caught in traffic even though it was sporting the license plate No. 1.
"I find more comfort riding my own vehicle,'' he later told reporters. "I think the resources of the state should be used sparingly.''
It's not certain yet if Aquino will be using the new "presidential SUV'' for good, over the black Mercedez Benz limousine assigned to the occupant of Malaca?ang.
"The situation is still fluid,'' presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda told reporters in Malaca?ang.
Aquino last Wednesday rode the limousine with then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo from Malaca?ang to the Quirino Grandstand for his inaugural, where he vowed not to use sirens to set an example.
On Friday, he paid the price for it, arriving 30 minutes late for the 10 a.m. handover of the top military post from acting AFP chief Lieutenant General Nestor Ochoa to new AFP Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Ricardo David Jr.
He apologized for his late arrival, but was sticking with his no-siren, no-counterflow policy.
"I think this is the first time I've been late. Of course, we're still adjusting with our long convoy, and there was traffic. I apologize for being late. We will perfect it,'' he said.
But definitely, Aquino indicated he would motor to functions like any regular motorist, without the siren.
"With the exception of emergency vehicles, I just want to remind all that there's such a law,'' he said, referring to the ban on the use of sirens, except for the top five officials of the land.
Reporters cooling their heels at the grandstand heaved a sigh of relief and erupted into cheers when the presidential convoy finally came into view and drove straight to the parade grounds.
Lacierda said Aquino was firm in his decision not to use sirens, and to follow traffic rules, like stopping at red lights, but conceded he would have to rise early to make it to his appointments on time.
"He has to wake up earlier to get to his destination on time. I guess it would be relationship between the PSG (Presidential Security Group) and the President,'' he told reporters.
It's the job of the PSG men to handle the security risks, he added.
But Aquino seemed pleased so far with public's positive response.
"The motorists were flashing the L (Laban) sign in approval when we were passing by. He said, `Gerry we're making an impact','' said his driver, SPO4 Gerry Gasingan.
Mr. Aquino motored from his home on Times Street in Quezon City, and got caught in heavy traffic on the stretch of Edsa between Timog Avenue and Santolan Road, according to Gasingan.
- Philippine Daily Inquirer