MANILA, Philippines—Vice President Jejomar Binay on Monday bristled at criticism of his failed attempt to broker a ceasefire between government troops and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in Zamboanga City, particularly decrying the Inquirer report on his mediation.
Reached by the Inquirer by phone, Binay declined to answer questions, except to reiterate that he spoke with President Aquino before pursuing negotiations with MNLF founder Nur Misuari, who he said was his classmate in college.
“The President and I talked,” Binay said on Monday.
Binay’s camp reiterated that President Aquino was aware of the talks between the Vice President and Misuari as early as Wednesday last week.
On his Twitter account (@VPJojoBinay), the Vice President also said Monday afternoon: “On Sept 11, I suggested to Pres. @noynoyaquino (President Aquino) a possible peaceful settlement of the Zamboanga crisis. He approved of my involvement.”
Binay announced shortly before midnight on Friday that he had brokered a deal between Misuari and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin for a ceasefire while pursuing a “peaceful settlement” of the conflict.
Conflicting reports followed: Gazmin and the military denied there was a ceasefire while Binay said the truce did not hold, as one side did not follow and that the exchange of gunfire continued.
Binay flew to Zamboanga City on Saturday to mediate between Aquino and Misuari but the effort apparently failed, as both sides rejected terms each had set to end the hostilities.
The Inquirer was directly in touch with Binay from Friday midnight until Saturday, following his meeting with the President.
Implying bias against him, Binay said Inquirer reports quoting Cabinet secretaries who apparently did not know about his involvement in negotiations were not true.
“All the reports your paper published are lies,” Binay said.
“The damage has been done,” he said, declining to answer further questions about the failed truce negotiations. “It will not come out anyway,” he said.
Binay, who drew flak on social media for trying to get a role in resolving the Zamboanga crisis, was apparently incensed by the Inquirer report that quoted several Cabinet officials who were not aware that he was involved in the negotiations.
One official said Binay was “trying to insert himself” as there were “no instructions” for him to go to Zamboanga and act as mediator between the government and Misuari.
National Security Adviser Cesar Garcia also said he was not aware that Binay was involved while Presidential Peace Adviser Teresita Deles said Gazmin was already asleep at the time the Vice President made the ceasefire announcement.
Gazmin confirmed that Binay called him up and asked about the possibility of negotiating a ceasefire with Misuari.
The defense chief quoted Binay as saying the government side “would initiate a ceasefire.” Gazmin said his response was there would be a truce only if the MNLF stopped shooting.
Gazmin said “there was no ceasefire” because the MNLF rebels continued shooting.