Binay to defend self ‘presidential’ style
MANILA, Philippines–Vice President Jejomar Binay will try to save his presidential ambition Monday afternoon with a 15-minute address to the nation that his aides say will be “emotional, heartfelt and presidential in tone.”
Binay will defend himself and his family against allegations of corruption thrown at them by former officials of Makati City, where he served as mayor for three terms before being elected to the second highest office in the land in 2010.
Binay’s camp has invited the press to cover the Vice President’s speech, which will be delivered at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) at 2 p.m.
But anything he says will carry no more weight than statements under oath, according to Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III, chair of the Senate blue ribbon subcommittee that is investigating the charges against Binay.
The most serious of the charges against Binay are the alleged overpricing of the 11-story Makati City Hall Building II and taking 13 percent of the price of all development projects in the city as grease for mayor’s permits.
Binay and his son, Makati City Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay, are also facing a plunder complaint in the Office of the Ombudsman in connection with the same charges hurled at them by their former political allies in Makati.
The Vice President has been invited to appear at the Senate inquiry to answer the charges but he has not said whether he will accept the invitation.
But he has been issuing statements to the press through his aides accusing his detractors of maligning him to eliminate him from the race for Malacañang in 2016.
Binay’s speech on Monday afternoon represents his first effort to deal with the allegations, which could indeed thwart his presidential plans.
Offense and defense
The Vice President will be both on the offense and on the defense in his speech that, according to his spokesman, Cavite Gov. Juanito Victor “Jonvic” Remulla, Binay himself mostly wrote.
In an interview on Sunday, Remulla said Binay’s speech would be “emotional, heartfelt and presidential in tone.”
“The Vice President will give a general overview of what’s happening. These lies, the allegations against him, and about governance and what he stands for,” Remulla said.
Binay will give a very “touching narrative and why governance matters,” he added.
“These are important times, and it’s high time the Vice President responds to all the allegations against him,” Remulla said.
He said Binay wanted to deal with the latest allegations aired at the Senate inquiry—that he accepted millions of pesos in grease money, delivered to him, his son and his wife in large duffel bags by his former vice mayor, Ernesto Mercado.
Asked whether Binay will no longer appear at the Senate inquiry, Remulla said the Vice President had yet to decide whether to accept the senators’ invitation.
Speaking on dzBB radio, Pimentel said he would take cognizance of the public statements of Binay and his spokespersons if the Vice President chose not to come to the inquiry.
Binay has been invited, not subpoenaed, he stressed, to the continuation of the inquiry on Sept. 25.
The Vice President will not be compelled to come to the Senate hearing if he decides not to accept the invitation, Pimentel said.
“I can’t say we can totally shut out information coming from press releases and press conferences because we read about them as well,” Pimentel said.
“In effect, we admit we are taking notice—in court it’s called judicial notice so let’s call this legislative notice—that there are pronouncements from the camp of Vice President Binay,” he said.
Pimentel said he would ask his staff to compile news reports carrying statements from Binay and his spokespersons so that these could be taken into account by the subcommittee in the preparation of its investigative report.
He said, however, that statements to the press would get less weight than statements made to the inquiry under oath.
“When the statement under oath clashes with a press statement, I think it’s not wrong to give more weight to the statement under oath because the one speaking is willing and ready to be charged with perjury,” Pimentel said.
Sen. Serge Osmeña III said the charges against Binay were serious, as these were leveled against him by his former officials, and he should respond to these properly instead of just claiming political persecution.
The allegations could damage Binay’s ratings, Osmeña said.
‘Not just Makati’
Thinking that Binay would speak at the flag-raising ceremony at Makati City Hall on Monday morning, Caloocan Rep. Edgar Erice said the Vice President should address the entire nation and not just his loyal employees in the city.
“Do not act as if you were Vice President only to Makati. You are VP to the entire country, in all the 7,107 islands that constitute it. The entire Philippines requires your explanation, clarification and denial of the serious allegations against you during your term as mayor of Makati. Although it seems appropriate that you explain to the very same constituents you are accused of stealing from, as Vice President you owe it to every one of us,” Erice said in a statement.
Ready to face charges
Remulla said Binay was ready to face the charges against him and he would deal with them in his speech Monday.
The Vice President’s family, including the Makati mayor and Sen. Nancy Binay, will be at the PICC for his speech.
Remulla said the Vice President would not take questions from reporters.
He said he and Navotas City Rep. Toby Tiangco would answer questions from journalists.–With reports from Leila B. Salaverria and Gil C. Cabacungan
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.