Leaders of the ruling Liberal Party on Tuesday dared Vice President Jejomar Binay to lay down his cards to let the public know whether he was supporting the administration’s anticorruption reforms, specifically the prosecution of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and the trial of impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona.
Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad Jr. and Cavite Representative Joseph E.A. Abaya issued the challenge after Binay’s coalition for the 2013 midterm elections, the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), invited allies of Arroyo and critics of the administration to join its senatorial ticket.
UNA is a coalition between Binay’s Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) and former President Joseph Estrada’s Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino.
“Should UNA proceed to put up its own slate, it will have to define itself in relation to the administration. Will it be pro, anti or otherwise? That’s for UNA to determine, especially on key issues of the day, such as the prosecution of former President Arroyo, the impeachment of the Chief Justice, the RH (reproductive health) bill and sin taxes indexing,” said Abad in a text message.
In his first 20 months in office, President Benigno Aquino III filed charges against Arroyo, members of her family and her allies, and impeached her appointees in the judiciary, Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez (who resigned) and Corona, while pushing for legislative reforms like population control and adjusting taxes on alcohol and cigarettes.
Clear as black, white
“It is better that battle lines are clearly drawn so the people won’t be confused. It should be as clear as black and white,” said Abaya, the manager of the House prosecution team in the Senate impeachment trial of Corona.
Abaya is the LP secretary general, while Abad was Mr. Aquino’s campaign manager in the 2010 presidential election; his wife is the party vice president for policy.
Roxas’ electoral protest
Binay beat the LP’s vice presidential candidate, now Transportation Secretary Manuel Roxas II, but the latter’s electoral protest remains pending in the Presidential Electoral Tribunal chaired by Corona.
Corona has accused Roxas of engineering his impeachment to pave the way for his replacement by Associate Justice Antonio Carpio. Carpio is a founding member of Villaraza Cruz Marcelo & Angangco, which was one of Roxas’ legal consultants.
Interestingly, Binay’s daughter, Representative Abigail Binay-Campos, did not sign the impeachment complaint against Corona.
Abad said it was hard at this point to label Binay’s group as opposition because UNA’s senatorial slate had yet to be finalized.
But Abad questioned Binay’s decision to invite to the UNA senatorial slate former Senator Ernesto Maceda and Zambales Representative Milagros Magsaysay of Lakas-Kampi who, he said, “have been openly and consistently critical of the administration.”
Also being considered for the UNA lineup is former Bukidnon Representative Juan Miguel Zubiri, who ran for senator in 2007 under Arroyo’s Team Unity coalition.
Zubiri was the subject of an election protest by Senator Aquilino Pimentel III, who recently got his post as senator following Zubiri’s resignation from the Senate.
Abaya said he “really couldn’t comprehend [UNA’s] decisions, especially when some Lakas politicians have not been the most constructive of fiscalizers.”
Like Abad, the LP secretary general said it was difficult to classify UNA as an opposition group.
“Being the opposition is hard to define as you know. Vis-a-vis the LP, they (UNA) are the other slate. But I’m not sure how the President will perceive them. Maybe same thing… the other slate,” said Abaya.
It was Abaya who declared that the LP would include in the administration slate only candidates who were in tune with the President’s anticorruption reforms.
Mr. Aquino’s spokesperson said UNA was not a political threat.
Secretary Edwin Lacierda noted that Binay was still following the policies set by the Chief Executive despite the difference in political party affiliation.
Asked if the administration considered Binay a member of the opposition, Lacierda said: “The President is the chief policy maker so everybody follows the policies issued by the President.
“Right now, there is no difference between the President and the Vice President. And, by the way, from the very start, we all know that President Aquino is from the Liberal Party and Vice President Binay is from PDP-Laban,” Lacierda said.
This, he said, “should not and it has not gotten in the way of governance so far.”
Binay, at the start of his vice presidential term, vowed to be a team player and work with the administration.
He has since been appointed to key posts in government, such as chair of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council and presidential adviser on overseas Filipino workers’ affairs.
Mr. Aquino has sent him to China to ask for mercy on behalf of condemned Filipino drug mules.
Malacañang said on Saturday that Binay’s formation of a senatorial slate under UNA should not affect the administration’s working relationship with the Vice President.