Binay chides Liberal Party officials for sowing intrigueBy Christian V. Esguerra, Cynthia D. Balana, Tina G. Santos
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Vice President Jejomar Binay on Wednesday said he was not forming an alliance with former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as he slammed the “hypocrisy” of leaders of the ruling Liberal Party (LP) for their “desperate attempt” to link him to Arroyo.
Binay chided the LP officials for sowing intrigue between him and President Benigno Aquino III. “They must have forgotten that I am part of the Cabinet and I support President Noynoy 100 percent,” he said.
Binay recalled that he even had dinner with Mr. Aquino in Malacañang on Tuesday night and attended a meeting until 11 p.m. He said he did not feel any unease between him and the President.
“The United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) has no plans of forming an alliance with Mrs. Arroyo or her party,” Binay said in a statement. “I suffered a lot under the Arroyo administration. Several cases were filed against me and yet I’m being suspected [of aligning with her].”
He recalled that the Department of the Interior and Local Government and the Office of the Ombudsman sought to suspend him in October 2006 and May 2007, respectively.
Binay was reacting to the challenge posed by Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad Jr. and Cavite Representative Joseph E.A. Abaya that he lay down his cards to let the public know whether he was supporting the administration’s anticorruption reforms, specifically the prosecution of Arroyo and the trial of impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona.
The LP leaders issued the challenge after Binay’s coalition for the 2013 midterm elections, 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 (PMP).
Estrada to the defense
Estrada said the LP tack was intended as a “smear campaign” against Binay, who had made known his intention to run in the 2016 presidential election.
“They are afraid of Binay because right now, there is no one who can match him in 2016,” Estrada told the Philippine Daily Inquirer in a phone interview.
Estrada downplayed the chances of Transportation Secretary Manuel Roxas II, the presumptive LP standard-bearer in 2016, against Binay. He noted that Binay had defeated Roxas in the 2010 vice presidential race.
Estrada said he was annoyed with Abad and Abaya, who both challenged Binay to let the public know if he was supporting the Aquino administration’s anticorruption campaign.
“Who is that Butch Abad? Who is that Abaya? Never heard,” Estrada said. “Where were the Butch Abads and the Abayas during the trying times of Cory (Aquino), when Binay risked his life to defend her against the coup attempts?”
Estrada defended the establishment of UNA, saying that having a political opposition was important in a democracy. “We can’t afford to have just one party. It can’t be one-sided. There has to be an opposition so people can choose,” he said.
Rabid Arroyo supporters
Binay said some of those sowing intrigues were former supporters of Arroyo.
“Look who’s talking? Those who are saying these things now were rabid supporters of GMA (Arroyo) before. Isn’t it that they used to be ‘Yes ma’am, Yes GMA?’ Now, look who’s passing themselves off as untainted.” Binay said.
Abad served as education secretary under the Arroyo administration but he resigned in July 2005 along with nine other officials following the “Hello Garci” scandal, which the then opposition said was proof that Arroyo rigged the 2004 presidential election to ensure her victory.
Essence of democracy
The Vice President said elections were about choices. “No party can claim a monopoly of good intentions and good people willing to serve. This is the essence of democracy.”
Binay said the sudden “inquisition” being conducted by the LP was apparently prompted by the creation of UNA, which will field a senatorial ticket in the 2013 midterm elections.
“I understand that they wanted me to answer. Is this an inquisition? That I have to answer? My answer is obvious and I will repeat what I said. ‘It’s difficult to explain to those who pretend to be deaf. And it’s difficult to be seen by those who are pretending to be blind,’” he said on ANC Television.
Binay said those who were forcing the issue were “insecure” about the names being included in the UNA senatorial lineup.
“UNA was formed to represent capable people who want to serve the country. Having lots of choices is better than the setup in a totalitarian country where there is only one candidate,” he said.
Abad earlier 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 considered for the UNA lineup was 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, LP secretary general, said he “really couldn’t comprehend [UNA’s] decisions, especially when some Lakas politicians have not been the most constructive of fiscalizers.”
Out of context
Pimentel, PDP-Laban president, on Wednesday said the LP was “taking the formation of UNA out of context.”
Pimentel, who will seek reelection under the UNA ticket next year, said the coalition was not formed specifically to oppose the LP, which is expected to field its own senatorial candidates.
“The PMP and the PDP-Laban will sign a platform agreement and present it to the people, similar to what the LP would also do. For all we know, our platforms could be the same. So, why are they talking about drawing the line? I don’t see any logic in that,” he told the Inquirer.
He said he was extending his “hand of invitation to the LP to take a look at our platform and entertain the possibility of a coalition.”
Senator Francis Escudero, who is also being considered in the UNA lineup, said it was still “too early” to discuss politics in the context of the 2013 midterm elections.
“Alliances are political certainties and there is rhyme and reason to that. The polls may be already next year but personally I think it’s not yet the right time to be busy for political shopping,” he said in a statement.
Senator Panfilo Lacson said including politicians identified with Arroyo in the UNA senatorial slate might not be a good idea for the coalition.
“It would be bad for them,” he said, noting that Arroyo, now detained for an electoral sabotage case, remained “very unpopular.”
Estrada said it was “impossible” for Binay to support Arroyo, pointing out that he had served as the campaign manager of the late Fernando Poe Jr. (FPJ). Poe who lost to Arroyo in the 2004 presidential election, whose results were later questioned amid the “Hello Garci” scandal.
“If he ends up supporting Arroyo, I’ll be the first one to break the coalition. I know it will not happen. It’s impossible,” Estrada said.
But the former president said he was open to accepting Arroyo allies as long as they were “never involved in graft and corruption under her administration.”