(STAR) By Aurea Calica - President Aquino said yesterday he slept for the first time in Bahay Pangarap (Dream House) but felt that he was living “like a prisoner.”

Mr. Aquino said he decided to move to his official residence in Malacañang Park to reduce the stress of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) in keeping him safe when traveling from his home in Times street in Quezon City to the Palace.

“I slept there (Thursday night). You know the feeling, this is it – the prison,” he said.

But the beauty of the situation, according to the President, is that at least he would not have to rush for work now.

Mr. Aquino said he preferred to stay at his Times street home and would go back there from time to time to “recharge,” but added that he actually liked to travel to see the faces of people, whether happy or not, and check for himself whether they were following traffic rules.

He told Malacañang reporters that he wanted to go on a short break either in Tarlac or Baguio but there was a typhoon and a deal on Hacienda Luisita that came out.

“They might think I am meddling so the Tarlac (trip) was cancelled,” he said.

Aquino had given his Cabinet members a tour of his new residence and even tried the billiard table with them, a source said.

The President said security for Bahay Pangarap was enhanced and should not be reported by the media or they would have to change the system.

He said this was the reason why he could not be “100 percent transparent” with regard to Bahay Pangarap.

Aquino said his sisters had seen the house and that one of them, Aurora Corazon “Pinky” Abellada, told him that they would leave him to the care of their “mom,” the late President Corazon Aquino.

He said there were no signs that his mother was making her presence felt but he would have to get used to the house, like finding where the switches for the lights were located.

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said Aquino had dinner with his staff members and friends in Bahay Pangarap and that his household help had also moved in.

Up close and personal

The President was prompted to sit down with members of the Malacañang Press Corps for an informal dialogue after questions on where he was and what he was doing were asked.

The questions arose when a Palace advisory said that the President did not have any schedule for the day. Some assumed that he needed some private time because he was moving to Bahay Pangarap or he was sick.

It turned out the President was in his office at the guesthouse of the Palace doing paper work and managed to monitor the press briefing.

Sources said the President asked why the media people were looking for him and decided to meet with them.

During the briefing, Lacierda said the President would be going “somewhere” and that he could not disclose the place, raising more questions.

Some asked why he was having private time when there were a lot of concerns, but Communications Group Secretary Ricky Carandang said private time did not mean leisure time.

Aquino admitted that there were times he was exhausted but could not sleep, so he would listen to music - about two or three songs - to relax, or go practical shooting. But he stressed there were too many things to study and he needed time to learn everything about his job.

The President asked the media about their concerns during the coverage and likewise laid down his. He said he did not want too many cameras flashing, especially when photographers were too close.

He appealed for understanding if he could not always face the media, saying they would have to do so many things all at the same time.

He said he was making sure there would be a level playing field for all media covering the Palace and that the investigation on who leaked the draft of his State of the Nation Address to favor one station was ongoing.[PHILSTAR]


Aquino tours Cabinet men in Bahay Pangarap

PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino III on Thursday toured the members of his Cabinet inside the newly-renovated Bahay Pangarap, his official residence in the next six years.

VIDEO ABOVE: The President is in the process of moving-in to the 350-square meter house but there was no exact date of the transfer yet.

Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said the President toured them inside his home with four newly-constructed bedrooms.

“It was the first time I saw Bahay Pangarap. It was elegant but not fancy,” he said.

He added that design of the house was turned from floral into neutral motif.

From the design of architect Manny Dimaculangan, the President's abode now has a guest bedroom and two separate rooms for his close-in security detail and household help. It also has swimming pool and garden.

Lacierda reiterated that official transfer of the President will not be open to media as advised by the Presidential Security Group.

Aside from the tour, Aquino also conducted a special Cabinet meeting inside Bahay Pangarap.

According to Lacierda, the meeting started at 10 a.m. and ended at 2:30. It focused on the proposed fiscal year 2011 budget with a theme of “Tungo sa Tuwid na Paggugol”.

Lacierda however declined to disclose exact budget figures.

“It is fiscally responsible and allocates public expenditures to the priority programs of President Aquino,” he said.

For transparency, Lacierda said that it will require fiscal releases, procurement, and implementation of projects to be posted in the Department of Budget and Management website and also in the websites of the appropriate agencies concerned.

The highest allocation will still be in education with the President deciding to retain the policy on pork barrel.

Lacierda said, as required by the Constitution, the budget has to be submitted in August 25, a month after to the State of the Nation Address of the President.

Malacanang sa Sugbo

On the other hand, the President is yet to decide on what to do with Malacanang sa Sugbo, the official residence of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in Cebu City.

Lacierda said that Aquino has ordered Customs commissioner Lito Alvarez to do an inventory on the house as well as other official residences of the former President.

“Right now I know that they are conducting an inventory of all the official residences like the Baguio Mansion House and others,” he said.

President Aquino earlier refused to retain Malacanang sa Sugbo as an official residence when he will visit the Visayas.

Since the building was a property of the Bureau of Customs (BOC), the agency was planning to take it back.

Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama however disagreed with the BOC's move to convert the structure into a museum displaying the memorabilia of the previous administration.

Malacanang sa Sugbo was restored by former President Arroyo in 2004. It was named after the Malacanang Palace which is the official residence of the President in Manila.

The building was already cleared from the things of former President Arroyo. It was transported back to the Office of Press Secretary and stored in the property division. (Jill Beltran/Sunnex)

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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