Binay fails to stop probe
They may be close, but President Benigno Aquino III didn’t give in to Vice President Jejomar Binay’s request to stop the Department of Justice (DOJ) from investigating alleged irregularities in Makati City, Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV said on Friday.
During their meeting on Tuesday night, Binay asked the President to stop the DOJ’s investigation, Trillanes said, citing two reliable sources.
“First, he clarified he wasn’t hitting the President [when he criticized the administration earlier] but the [people] around him,” Trillanes said in a telephone interview.
“Two, he said he was being harassed by the DOJ. So he was trying to persuade the President, using their personal relationship to, in a way, influence the upcoming investigation. That didn’t happen,” he said.
But Binay’s camp said that was impossible.
“How can the Vice President ask the President to stop a probe that had not even started at that time,” Binay’s spokesperson, Cavite Gov. Jonvic Remulla, said in a statement.
“Trillanes has a habit of inventing things. There were two people in that meeting. Trillanes wasn’t one of them. From what I know, the President thinks very little of Trillanes,” Remulla said.
Fight vs Goliaths
Binay believes all the trials he and his family are going through “will come to pass soon.”
The embattled Vice President spoke about his optimism to Boy Scouts during the awarding ceremony of the 2014 Ten Outstanding Boy Scouts of the Philippines (BSP) at the Philippine International Convention Center on Friday morning.
Binay, who serves as national president of the BSP, thanked the organization for trusting and supporting him despite the allegations against him.
“This will come to pass soon, and you will see me in the bigger political arena, fighting Goliaths in an effort to become a part of a better future,” he said.
Binay said he expected “more political fireworks” and more “mud” to be thrown at his face in the coming days.
“But don’t worry, my friends. When you see me in this uniform, I am your brother scout with the innocence of a boy who finds joy in the left handshake. No politics please,” he said.
‘P-Noy can control DOJ’
When pressed how Binay wanted the President to influence the DOJ investigation, Trillanes said: “He knows the President can control the DOJ.”
Earlier in the day, Trillanes, in an interview on dwIZ radio, said Binay tried to settle things with the President “to stop the DOJ and other agencies” from investigating him.
Binay met with Mr. Aquino at the President’s official residence in Malacañang late Tuesday, hours after criticizing during a public forum the administration’s alleged double standard in dealing with corruption.
While the administration has been mistreating former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, it has been soft on the Philippine National Police chief, Director General Alan Purisima, who is accused of amassing ill-gotten wealth, Binay said.
Binay’s camp described the meeting between him and the President as “cordial and jovial.”
NBI probe ordered
But the next day, De Lima ordered the NBI to open an investigation into the alleged overpricing of the P2.28-billion Makati City Hall Building II and other irregularities in Makati involving Binay, his family, and his associates.
A Senate blue ribbon subcommittee is already looking into the allegations, with former Makati City officials testifying against Binay and his family.
“This much I can say. That personal relationship did not influence in any way what’s happening right now—the Senate investigation, the upcoming DOJ investigation,” Trillanes said.
Trillanes said Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. and Mr. Aquino’s cousin Maria Montelibano arranged the meeting between the President and Binay.
He said it was also Coloma who issued the press release about the meeting.
Coloma flatly denied Trillanes’ claims. He said he was not involved in the meeting between the President and Binay.
“I did not prepare or issue any press release regarding the meeting. On the days after the meeting, I simply answered questions from Malacañang reporters pertaining to the meeting as part of my official duties,” Coloma said in a statement.
“Since my appointment to the Cabinet, I have done my best to serve our President and the people without being involved in or affected by any form of factionalism,” he said.
Eight luxury vehicles
In his statement, Remulla said Trillanes should answer questions about his statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) and eight luxury vehicles not declared in those financial disclosures.
The question about the luxury vehicles was first raised earlier this week by Binay’s political party, the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA).
Trillanes had no immediate response to the statement from Binay’s camp.
He said the DOJ investigation should not stop the Senate inquiry.
He said the Senate inquiry, the DOJ investigation and the Ombudsman’s preliminary investigation in the plunder complaint against Binay were complementary.
The three bodies would be sharing information, he said, adding that there are reports that the DOJ plans to use the testimonies of former Makati Vice Mayor Ernesto Mercado in its investigation.
“The good thing about that is, the credibility of witnesses like Mercado is tested in the Senate. We can tell whether they are bogus or not. By the time they appear before the DOJ or the Ombudsman, their value as witnesses is [already] known,” he said.
At the Senate inquiry, Mercado has accused Binay of ordering the rigging of biddings for infrastructure projects to favor a certain contractor, and of taking kickbacks from contractors
Last week, Mercado furnished the blue ribbon subcommittee with an aerial video footage and still pictures of a 350-hectare, P1.2-billion property in Rosario town, Batangas province, that he said was owned by Binay.
Binay’s camp maintained that he did not own the estate, claiming that he only leased 9 hectares of it for a piggery, JCB Farms, and a flower farm for his wife, former Makati Mayor Elenita Binay.
Since Binay sold his interests in the piggery to Agrifortuna Inc. in 2010, only his wife’s flower farm remained under lease, his camp said.
The lessor of the property now is Sunchamp Real Estate Development Corp., operator of Sunchamp Agri-Tourism Park, it said.
After the BSP ceremonies, Binay refused to answer questions from reporters, saying he was still wearing the brown Boy Scout uniform.
The BSP distanced itself from the controversy hounding the Binays.
“He is our president. We wish him well. We know that he will overcome all of these,” BSP member emeritus Maximino Edralin told reporters after the awarding ceremony, where 10 outstanding Boy Scouts were given cash prizes, college scholarship grants and plaques of recognition.
Edralin said Binay’s difficulties were part of the country’s “pernicious” political system.
He stressed that the BSP remained an apolitical organization. With reports from Nikko Dizon and Niña P. Calleja; and Maila Ager, Inquirer.net
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