MANILA, Philippines – Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista on Monday, June 20, downplayed an earlier report that claimed he was "unhappy" over Vice President-elect Leni Robredo's decision to move the Office of the Vice President (OVP) to the city's Executive House.
"In a heartbeat I said yes," Bautista told reporters when asked how he reacted when Vice Mayor Joy Belmonte told him Robredo was considering the sprawling property as the new OVP home.
"It's going to be an honor for the people of Quezon City and an honor for the Quezon City government to host no less than the Vice President of the Republic of the Philippines," Bautista added during a press conference held inside the Executive House.
The property will be 100% completed by the end of June, or when Robredo takes her oath as the 16th vice president of the country.
A Philippine Daily Inquirer report, citing an anonymous source, said Robredo's pending move was "causing a stir" inside the Quezon City Hall because Belmonte's offer to Robredo "was made without the prior knowledge of [Bautista]."
Speaking to media on Monday, the Quezon City mayor could not confirm or deny if the offer was made to Robredo before or after he got the heads up.
Still, he emphasized that there was no truth to speculation that he felt bad over having to give up the Executive House to the OVP.
"This is our Quezon City reception house. [This was made] to receive ambassadors, members of the foreign chambers of commerce, businessmen from all over the country… It's appropriate for the vice president to stay here, to make this as her office, to receive the same sectors, the same people," added Bautista, who is set to begin his 3rd straight term as mayor of the National Capital Region's biggest city.
Robredo, Belmonte, and Bautista are all members of the outgoing ruling party, the Liberal Party (LP). Belmonte, daughter of Quezon City 4th District Representative Feliciano "Sonny" Belmonte Jr, was among Robredo's chief campaigners in the 2016 race.
Bautista, meanwhile, was tasked to head the campaign's efforts in the entire NCR. The older Belmonte, the outgoing House Speaker, was manager of the 2016 campaign.
Most of the city's incumbent officials – from the district representatives and the city mayor to other local officials – are members of the LP.
Robredo, according to Bautista, has visited the Executive House at least thrice. (READ: Remember the 'Boracay Mansion'?)
During one of those visits, the vice president-elect even brought along a feng shui expert.
The final details of the OVP's move to the Quezon City government property have yet to be ironed out, although Bautista has already met with Robredo's transition team chief-of-staff, Boyet Dy, to discuss the contract.
The Quezon City Council has already given the go-signal to allow the OVP to rent the property. The cost of its rental, however, has yet to be determined by the Commission on Audit.
The Executive House is located in the same property that used to house the infamous "Boracay Mansion," a home linked to convicted plunderer, former president turned Manila mayor Joseph Estrada.
Located at 100 11th Street in residential New Manila, Quezon City, the two adjacent lots measuring 7,145 square meters were estimated to be worth at least P142.92 million by March 2008, according to research by Rappler.
The "Boracay Mansion" was acquired by the Quezon City government in 2007 after years of neglect following Estrada's ouster. The rehabilitation of the property into the Executive House was initially targeted to be completed by late 2015.
The Executive House would have served as the local government's reception venue for dignitaries, investors, and other VIPs. The structure has 5 rooms, 4 of which have their own bath and shower rooms. The 4 shower rooms also have tubs installed in them.
When members of the media were allowed to go around the complex, the rooms contained office tables, chairs, and mostly furniture for seating areas. The space surrounding the bathrooms had what seemed to be closets and vanities.
The other parts of the complex, however, including an expansive gazebo and quarters of security personnel, have yet to be completed. – Rappler.com