Binay: Aquino Cabinet treated me like a leper
He was treated like a leper by members of President Aquino’s official family, Vice President Jejomar Binay said, disclosing his strained relations with fellow Cabinet officials a few days after resigning from the Cabinet.
“Alam mo, para kang may ketong doon sa Cabinet meeting. (It felt like I had leprosy during Cabinet meetings),” Binay told reporters in Navotas City on Friday.
But Malacañang downplayed the Vice President’s claims, and described “the underdog image he tried to portray” as “a gross misrepresentation.”
“The truth is, he (was) given all the respect due the second highest official in the land during Cabinet meetings,” presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said, expressing surprise at Binay’s words.
“As (Interior) Secretary Mar Roxas mentioned, he (was) the only Vice President in Philippine history who was given an official residence by a sitting President. As the President mentioned, he was given (the Housing) portfolio, but when he requested for the OFW (overseas Filipino workers) portfolio, the President also acceded to his request,” Lacierda said.
He added: “I thought Binay’s spokesperson had just said (the Vice President) did not want to wash his dirty linen in public. Does this not qualify as (that?)”
Binay said that while he did not feel like an outcast, toward the end of his stay in the administration and probably as part of efforts to harass him, rumors about his impending arrest started circulating.
The Vice President, who came out swinging against the Aquino administration which he described as “insensitive” and “bumbling” on Wednesday, has been accused of corruption and of amassing ill-gotten wealth in several Senate hearings.
He is also facing criminal complaints in the Office of the Ombudsman for alleged irregularities in the construction of the Makati City Hall Building II and Makati Science High School.
Despite all these, Binay said, he still sees President Aquino and his family as friends.
“I’d like to stress, we’re talking about governance here. For me, for our part, our friendship has not ended,” he said.
But lawyer Rico Quicho, Binay’s spokesperson for political affairs, took President Aquino to task for the alleged ill treatment of his client.
“Why did the President allow the Vice President’s enemies to use the instruments of government to harass and besmirch the name of his friend?” Quicho said.
Why did Mr. Aquino allow shortcuts to the legal processes to persecute his friend, and the use of government funds to judge and condemn his friend in one of the longest running investigations in the country’s history? the lawyer added.
“Even in friendship, is the President selective and has a double standard?” Quicho asked, in apparent reference to former police chief Alan Purisima, the suspended general who meddled in the Mamasapano, Maguindanao operation that led to the death of 44 Special Action Force members.
“There was not even a call to the Ombdusman or the [Department of Justice] to investigate,” Binay’s spokesperson said of Purisima’s case.
Binay said it was up to his allies in the administration to decide if they want to leave their posts or not.
“That’s their individual decision,” the official said of the call by several lawmakers for Binay appointees to likewise vacate their posts now that the Vice President had resigned his Cabinet post and declared himself leader of the opposition.
In a separate interview, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad told the Inquirer that indeed, there was some “discomfort” in the Cabinet after the 2013 midterm elections, when Binay first fashioned himself as the leader of the opposition.
Despite being with the opposition, Binay had attended meetings where serious issues were discussed, from “inadequacies of government” to strategic military concerns, Abad said.
“You expose these things (only) to people you trust,” the budget official said. “(Binay) cannot claim that (he) was never part of that, because in those very sensitive discussions he was there.”
Asked whether the Vice President had spoken up when “serious problems” in government were discussed, Abad replied: “Not a squeak!”
But the official admitted that there was a “sense of relief” among the Cabinet members with Binay’s departure, as the Vice President has been “sniping and indirectly criticizing the government” even before he resigned his Cabinet posts last Monday.
Still, Abad said, it was “not easy” for President Aquino to let go of Binay.
“You have to remember that they’ve gone through a lot with President Cory. Personally and of course, historically, they have worked together.”
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