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Binay reschedules address to nation Thursday

Vice President Jejomar Binay. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

Vice President Jejomar Binay. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines–Stop politicking and face the Senate.

That’s the demand that protesters from Makati City raised as they staged a rally on Wednesday near the Sofitel Philippine Plaza hotel in Pasay City, where Vice President Jejomar Binay was attending a mining conference.

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Binay will speak Thursday on the controversy in an address to the nation from the Philippine International Convention Center at 2 p.m.

He had originally planned to deliver the speech on Monday, but he canceled it to visit typhoon victims in Cagayan and Isabela provinces.

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Binay declined to give a preview of his speech, urging reporters instead to just listen to what he would say.

Asked about the protesters’ demand, Binay said: “That’s their right to rally.”

“We are challenging the [Vice President] to face the blue ribbon committee,” said Jhasper Cuayzon, spokesman for the youth arm of United Makati against Corruption (Umac), which held the rally to pressure Binay to appear at the Senate inquiry into allegations of corruption involving municipal infrastructure projects during his three terms as the city’s mayor.

Rather than answering the allegations in press conferences held in different places, Binay should speak at the Senate, the “proper venue” for him to defend himself, Cuayzon said.

“It’s his chance to air his side,” Cuayzon said, adding that Binay should answer the accusations against him “point by point” and should “not deviate, as he did before.”

“[Binay] should not merely dismiss the allegations against him as political,” he said.

‘That’s for me to decide’

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The Senate blue ribbon subcommittee investigating the alleged overpricing of the 11-story, P2.28-billion Makati City Hall Building II and rigging of biddings for infrastructure project contracts has sent Binay an invitation to appear at a hearing called by the panel for Sept. 25.

Binay has not said whether he will accept the invitation, and when asked by reporters on the sidelines of the conference on Wednesday whether he would appear at the hearing, he replied: “That’s for me to decide.”

He said the protesters’ demand that he appear in the Senate inquiry was their “opinion.”

Cuayzon said the protesters were members of Umac, Youth for Change, whose members were from the University of Makati, and Urban Poor Alliance against Demolition in Makati.

Wearing masks imprinted with Binay’s picture, the protesters, numbering 150, according to Cuayzon, marched at 9 a.m. toward Sofitel, but were blocked by riot police near the Coconut Palace, which is now the Vice President’s official residence.

The protesters did not insist on marching to the hotel and instead held their rally at the Coconut Palace, where the Vice President also holds office.

‘Strong basis’

Cuayzon said the testimony of former Makati Vice Mayor Ernesto Mercado in the Senate inquiry that Binay took 13 percent of the cost of all infrastructure projects in the city as kickback had a “strong basis.” Binay was then the Makati mayor.

He said “only several individuals” benefited from the construction of Makati City Hall Building II.

“If you compute the money that was [allegedly] stolen by the three senators [Juan Ponce Enrile, Bong Revilla and Jinggoy Estrada in the pork barrel scam], the money that was stolen from the [Makati City Hall Building II project] was bigger,” Cuayzon said.

He did not say, however, how much was stolen from the Makati project.

Enrile is accused of pocketing P172 million; Revilla, P242 million; and Estrada, P183 million of their pork barrel allocations in connivance with businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles in the P10-billion pork barrel scam.

‘Early campaigning’

Cuayzon said the Makati City Hall Building II was “unnecessary.”

He said the money spent to build the parking building could have been used to build houses for 3,000 to 5,000 homeless families in Makati.

Cuayzon also criticized Binay, who has declared he will run for President in 2016, for “early campaigning.”

He said the protesters did not see anything wrong with Binay’s going to Cagayan and Isabela to visit typhoon victims on Monday.

But the Vice President should have stuck to “really helping” the typhoon victims, he said.

“What he did [there] appeared to be campaigning,” he said, adding that there were reports that Binay gave away T-shirts emblazoned with his name.

Cuayzon described the T-shirts as white with the name “Binay” printed in blue.

“[Binay] should stop campaigning and answer the allegations against him,” Cuayzon said.

The protesters ended the rally and went home before noon.

Still friends with Aquino

In his talk with reporters, Binay insisted that he remains friends with President Aquino and that the two of them exclude politics from their relationship.

“There is a time for politics and there is a time for true friendship,” Binay said.

Asked whether he would stay in the Cabinet until the end of Aquino’s term, Binay replied that he serves at the pleasure of the President.

When asked about Aquino’s ambivalence about running for a second term through constitutional amendment, Binay at first declined to reply.

But later he said that he opposed amendments to the Constitution, except changes to its economic provisions.

No talk about MVP

Binay drew a buzz when he mentioned telecommunications tycoon Manuel V. Pangilinan in his keynote address at the miners’ conference.

He said in a recent interview with the Inquirer that he was wooing Pangilinan to be his vice-presidential running mate in 2016.

But he dodged questions Wednesday about his chasing after the tycoon.

“I hope that my mentioning MVP or Mr. Pangilinan will not further fuel speculations about my asking him to be my Vice President in 2016,” Binay told reporters.

“And the way you laugh, many of you are gossips,” he added.

Pangilinan has told the Inquirer that he has no plans of running for any public office.

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TAGS: address to nation, Jejomar Binay, Makati parking building, Politics, speech
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