[2010 PHOTO - AT BONIFACIO HALL: President Benigno S. Aquino III met with former President of the United States William Jefferson “Bill” Clinton in a courtesy call last year at the Yellow Room of Bonifacio Hall. Background portrait of his mom, former Pres. Corazon Aquino]

MANILA, JULY 8, 2011 (MANILA STANDARD) by Joyce Pangco Pańares - President Benigno Aquino III is temporarily holding office at the Malacańan Palace after his old office at the Bonifacio Hall (Premiere Guesthouse) was found to be structurally unsafe.

Mr. Aquino moved to a Palace study room, which was used by past presidents, including the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, on June 21.

“The building underwent an earthquake survey but it was not attended since the 1970s,” he said in his speech during the 113th anniversary of the Department of Foreign Affairs yesterday.

Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office head Ramon Carandang said the office was “being repaired and its structure is being examined.”

The two-story Bonifacio Hall, a glass-fronted building across the Palace, was built in 1975.

It was used as the main office of Mr. Aquino’s mother, the late President Corazon Aquino, during her term.

It became a presidential office and residence under then President Joseph Estrada.

At present, it also houses the office of Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr.

FROM THE BLOG OF  raďssa robles

Awful but genuine President Noynoy Aquino photo goes viral on the web By Raissa Robles  July 4, 2011 · 56 Comments

A highly unflattering picture of PNoy, released by the presidential palace, has reaped over 200 mostly negative comments on the social networking site Facebook.

I was drawn to look closely at it, not only because of the awkward tilt of President Benigno Aquino’s head, but also because of the posted comments, criticizing the large crystal ashtray and box of cigarettes on his nearly empty desk, and the shabby chic wallpaper on which the presidential seal was displayed.

The general observation made by the commentators were that the office lacked presidential dignity. The ash tray and cigarettes on PNoy’s desk showed he was violating the new No Smoking Law. And his nearly empty desk was proof of a do-nothing presidency.

See for yourself below:

Official photo from Malacańang

To me, what is happening is a chipping away of the President’s image. In the long run this could reduce his credibility and the people’s trust in him to perform his duties and functions and deliver on his promises. Statistically, this is often measured through popularity and trust surveys – where his numbers have been dipping.

My Facebook friend Buddy Cunanan said:

"I just came from Malacanang today. I went incognito on a tour of the Palace and saw the officer where Quezon, Quirino, Marcos etc worked and made historic decisions…the offices looked and felt presidential. There was a sense of destiny and power and fate in those rooms. At the risk of sounding overly-negative, what the hell is with this guy’s office?? It’s pathetic. It conveys none of the grandeur and greatness of the offices of yesteryear. How sad".

My Facebook friend Luwi Cheng, who had posted the photograph, replied:

"Buddy, i already commented on this tacky interiors almost a year ago. I thought it is just a temporary office but it looks like the president is comfortable about the looks of his office. pordyosporsanto, the wallpaper is a remnant of the era when his mother occupied that building! and don’t tell me this is part of his austerity program. i am sure there is a budget for his office maintenance and improvement but why oh why he he taken into liking that tacky wallpaper that is not even fit for a powder room in today’s contemporary interiors!"

To which Buddy answered back:

"OMG. This is such a lousy photo. Is it just my imagination or does this President really have no decent photographs?? How/Why did they allow this photo to be released?"

Yes. Why?

But before I go any further, let me explain why I’m writing about what others might call trivial pursuits when there are more serious things to write about like – what is the President doing about reducing poverty and extra-judicial killings.

To me, what is happening is a chipping away of the President’s image. In the long run this could reduce his credibility and the people’s trust in him to perform his duties and functions and deliver on his promises. Statistically, this is often measured through popularity and trust surveys – where his numbers have been dipping.

Luwi Cheng correctly pointed out that PNoy’s photo contradicted the government drive against smoking:

"I cannot understand why MMDA the chairman of which was appointed by him, will wage a vigorous campaign to stop smoking when the poster boy for smokers is aquino himself! Here we can see the blatant dichotomy of this administration that professes to stop smoking in public and yet, the president himself is one big smoker himself as attested by the picture. Now, is that not stupidity in the higest order?"

Two other commentators questioned PNoy’s work ethic, based on the emptiness of his desk.

Patricia Ilagan said that in the Australian hospital where she worked as an administration officer,

"even my desk and the desks of executives i’ve been into were/are never sooo uncluttered! i thought they said he has piles of paper on his desk to go through daily? liars!"

Based on the photo, Sylvia Cenon Sana concluded that PNoy was lazy:

"siya ang sinuntok ni Inday Sara Duterte at ng magtrabaho. By the looks of it he is not a working President. What i can see he is just pretending sitting down and doing some work but actually after photo taken just got up straight to his playroom complete with toys."

And so I checked the authenticity of the photo.

Photo is authentic

Yes, it’s genuine. Manolo Quezon, the Undersecretary for the President’s Strategic Planning Office, confirmed to me today that the room in which PNoy was photographed was indeed his official study – last year.

Aside from asking Quezon if that was indeed PNoy’s official study, I also asked him – ”Why is the wallpaper flowered? Was this his mother’s old study? Where is it in Malacańang? Why are there no mounds of paper on the desk to show he’s hard at work?

The historian in Quezon replied:

"That’s the one with ricky (Carandang)? And es (Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa)? That was taken many months ago. The room is the aquino room in bonifacio hall (guest house) where fm (Marcos) was staying when ninoy (Aquino) was killed; where cory held office; which was renovated as eraps (Estrada’s) bedroom; where (Renato) de villa, (Alberto) romulo, etc held office during gma (Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo); and where the president holds office. The wallpaper dates to the estrada administration. I can’t recall the actual event when that photo was taken but might be around october or even earlier last year."

More checking revealed that the photo above was in the same batch that an official photographer must have taken that day of Carandang, Ochoa and PNoy. Newsbreak had the same photo above, and this one below:

[President Benigno Aquino. Presidential Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang
and Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa pose for a photograph
PHOTO from Malacańang Palace]

I asked Quezon to explain where Bonifacio Hall was, and whether that was the building opposite the main palace. He explained:

"bonifacio hall was formerly known as the premier guesthouse, originally the servants quarters. In 1975 the marcoses gave lots in cogeo to the palace staff and turned it into the guest house where they stayed during the periodic renovations of the palace: most especially 78-79 when they demolished and rebuilt the palace, in 81 when air purification equipment was installed and in 83 when fm was ill. Cory held office there, estrada renovated it adding the twin canopies patterned after the canopy in kalayaan hall; and ermita and all of gmas executive secretaries held office there. Gma by proclamation renamed the building bonifacio hall in 2003."

But Quezon told me that PNoy was no longer holding office in that room because the entire building was now being checked for structural soundness.

Does an empty desk denote laziness?

I noticed that Quezon did not reply to my last question - Why are there no mounds of paper on the desk to show he’s hard at work?

And so I looked for the answer.

Interestingly, here’s what I found: United States President Barack Obama has the same nearly empty desk that PNoy had, minus the ash tray and pack of cigarettes. See below:

US President Barack Obama - PHOTO courtesy of Free Images

US President Barack Obama - PHOTO courtesy of Free Images

While pictures can speak louder than words, pictures have to be compared to other pictures for a more accurate interpretation.

The comparison of Obama and PNoy’s desk tend to show that the bareness of a desk is not a gauge of lack of hard work or industry.

Also, PNoy’s photo was taken last year when no smoking ban was in place.

But I agree with you, Luwi. THAT office looked tacky, especially for a male head of state.

As for PNoy looking awkward, yes he did, but that doesn’t still make him an “abnoy” (abnormal) as some of his critics continue to call him to this day. PNoy is not the most photogenic president, unlike Ex-President Arroyo.

Still, there are some photos where even Mrs Arroyo looks strange like this one:

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo

But ugliness or handsomeness ought not to be the basis for judging a person’s character. Remember, the devil Lucifer was the handsomest guardian angel in the heavens, according to St. Thomas’ Summa Theologica.

I’m sure you and I have photos we have torn and thrown because we look ugly in them. Look, PNoy’s cousin Gilbeto Teodoro has a similar awkward tilt of the head in this photo. Doesn’t it make Gibo look somewhat gay?

PNoy's cousin, Gilberto Teodoro

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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