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Last update: June 14 2010, 11:56 PM
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P1B offered for mansion on Arlegui

June 14, 2010

MANILA, Philippines—And just like that, the Arlegui Mansion has become hot property.

The victory of President-elect Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III has attracted several prominent buyers bidding hundreds of millions of pesos for the prewar mansion being considered as a possible official residence for the incoming chief executive in the next six years.

But the Aquino administration could end up losing the 4,924-square-meter property, owing to the whopping bid of P1 billion, so far dangled to its owner, Tarcila Laperal-Mendoza, the Philippine Daily Inquirer has learned.

“Many people are interested in the house—and the names are very, very prominent,” Elena Bautista-Horn, chief of the Presidential Management Staff, told the Inquirer Sunday. “Because of this, I don’t think it would be practical for the government to buy it at that price.”

Mendoza earlier got her house back following a Supreme Court decision declaring as illegal the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos’ order to boot her out at the height of martial law in the 1970s.

The high court ordered the government to pay Mendoza P20,000 in monthly rental starting July 1975, including annual interest once the ruling became final.

Horn said the government owed Mendoza a total of P83 million, of which only P10 million had been paid in two batches since February this year.

Right of first refusal

She said the government could only shell out such an amount because the payment was not included in the country’s annual budget for this year.

If it was any consolation, Horn said she had been assured by Mendoza’s camp that the government would be accorded “the right of first refusal” before the property was sold to someone else.

The Palace had spent close to P200,000 to refurbish the two-story mansion so it could be used by the incoming Aquino administration. The house was renovated mainly to accommodate offices, but could also be utilized as a residence.

Aquino is no stranger to the mansion because he lived there with his family during the tumultuous regime of his mother, the late President Corazon Aquino, from 1986 to 1992. The senator’s old room is still intact, including the master bedroom which has been converted into a possible presidential office.

Another option

Horn admitted that the Arlegui Mansion had become even more prominent because of the media attention on Aquino’s choice of official residence.

It is one of the options, together with the one-bedroom Bahay Pangarap located across the Palace building in the Presidential Security Group (PSG) compound.

Horn had given at least two media tours of the Arlegui Mansion in the last two weeks and held a press briefing at the ground floor on Thursday.

While Bahay Pangarap (House of Dreams) is also in the running, one thing apparently working against it is the stench coming from the Pasig River, which separates it from the Palace via a boat ride of five minutes or less.

The house is hardly deserving of its name if one is to consider the flotsam of garbage near the port. Horn said the smell could probably prompt the incoming administration to muster “the political will to clean up the Pasig River.”

At the height of Tropical Storm “Ondoy” (international codename: Ketsana) late last year, the river overflowed and sent waves of trash crashing at the doorstep of Bahay Pangarap, according to a PSG official, who requested anonymity as he was not authorized to speak on the matter.

Private and homey

But other than the murky Pasig River, the bungalow provides the privacy and homey feel that a bachelor like Aquino is probably looking for in a house.

Built in the 1930s, it was initially designed as an “art deco building with a somewhat Asian motif” and used for formal events and dinners, according to a previous Inquirer report. The house now has a Balinese-style resort ambiance and even has a swimming pool.

The PSG official acknowledged that Bahay Pangarap would give Aquino the same amount of security much like if he decided to live in the Palace building, the Premier Guest House, or the Arlegui Mansion which are all within the Malacañang complex.

“Bahay Pangarap is located right at the headquarters of the PSG, so you can’t get any safer than that,” the PSG official said.

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