Binay: Rich out to get me
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines—If his army of detractors are to be believed, he’s already several billion pesos away from his simple beginnings, but Vice President Jejomar Binay still thinks the rich are the enemy and are out to get him.
In an interview with a Pagadian City radio station here on Friday, Binay said Oplan Nognog 2016, allegedly concocted to remove him from contention in the 2016 presidential election, was actually a “political” war being waged by the rich against the poor of this country.
“The rich do not want people who come from poor families to rise to the highest position in the country,” he said.
In the Pagadian radio interview, Binay said he had no need to expound on what the word nognog meant as the Filipino people knew it was a derisive term for dark or small people.
Nognog is the name of a small, dark boy, the title character in a comic strip created by cartoonist Leandro San Juan Martinez in the 1960s and 1970s.
He said Oplan Nognog 2016 is a cynical move against poor Filipinos like him.
“The only ones capable of thinking up ways to sneer at and smear [reputations] are rich people like [Interior Secretary] Mar Roxas. You already know this. We are the same, I grew up poor. They don’t want us to be united. They don’t want me to lead the fight against poverty and joblessness in our country,” Binay said in Filipino.
Binay and his camp earlier said that the corruption and ill-gotten wealth allegations against him were part of a plot to destroy his chances of becoming President in 2016, a plot called “Oplan Nognog 2016” that they claimed was hatched by Roxas and Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, who both have ambitions of running for President in 2016.
Cayetano, with Senators Koko Pimentel and Antonio Trillanes IV, is leading a Senate subcommittee investigation into the allegedly overpriced P2.3-billion Makati City Hall Building II that began construction when Binay was still the mayor of Makati. The probe has rapidly escalated as witness after witness showed up at the Senate with mind-boggling allegations of the ill-gotten wealth that Binay and his family allegedly accumulated.
Walks like a duck…
Binay said the accusations against him were really politically motivated and were aimed at demolishing his chances of leading the country.
He said Roxas knew right after the presidential election in 2010 that he (Binay) would be going after the top post in 2016. (Roxas, the vice presidential running mate of President Aquino in 2010, lost to Binay in that electoral contest.)
“The day after the election, when you insisted to know what my plans were for 2016, then and there I admitted [that I would run for President],” Binay said.
As proof that the Senate investigation into his alleged corruption and hidden wealth was politically motivated, Binay claimed that staff from Roxas’ office were among the passengers of the helicopter that was used to take aerial footage of the 350-hectare Batangas property that Cayetano and the other Senate probers and witnesses claimed belonged to Binay and his family.
“The helicopter that was used was owned by a funder of Mr. Roxas. Reports even said that his staff were in the chopper,” he said.
Binay said that when one of the witnesses in the Senate hearings was hospitalized, Roxas was among the early visitors.
He was referring to former Makati Vice Mayor Ernesto Mercado.
“What more can you say? Walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, is a duck,” he said.
Still friends with Aquino
In the same Pagadian radio interview, Binay insisted that he is still friends with President Aquino, who earlier revealed that Binay had tried to get him to stop the Senate inquiry into his alleged corruption.
“Our friendship remains,” Binay said in the radio interview, a transcript of which was released by his office to Manila-based reporters.
When he emerged from his meeting last week with Mr. Aquino, Binay said that their friendship became even stronger. Though he and Mr. Aquino belong to different political parties, they remain friends, he said.
Binay said he has yet to decide whether to accept the invitation of the entire Senate blue ribbon committee, the mother committee of the subcommittee that is handling the Binay probe, to appear before it and respond to the corruption allegations against him.
“Let us see first what it is exactly, then we can talk about it,” he said.
Binay reiterated he did not want to face the Senate blue ribbon subcommittee because its objective was to malign his reputation.
Debate with Trillanes
On the proposed public debate with Trillanes, Binay said he would be available to debate anytime, anywhere and hopes that everything would be clear after the debate.
He asked whether Trillanes, a former junior Navy officer, wanted to debate inside a military camp.
He also said that he heard that Trillanes had been embarrassed after his tour of the alleged Binay Batangas property, which businessman Antonio Tiu is claiming to own, because his allegations of an air-conditioned piggery in the farm were found not to be true. With a report from Christine Avendaño
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