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Aquino wonders why Binay probe done in dribs and drabs

President Aquino (right) and Vice President Jejomar Binay. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

President Aquino (right) and Vice President Jejomar Binay. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

BEIJING—President Aquino on Tuesday wondered why the Senate investigation of the corruption and ill-gotten wealth allegations against Vice President Jejomar Binay was proceeding in dribs and drabs.

In a talk with reporters over coffee here, the President expressed hope that all the evidence against Binay would be presented not on a piecemeal basis. Binay is a family friend of the Aquinos.

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A Senate blue ribbon subcommittee is investigating the alleged overpricing of the Makati City Hall Building II and other irregularities, such as the rigging of infrastructure contracts of the local government when Binay was mayor.

The probe stemmed from Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV’s resolution that called for the investigation.

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The probe has extended to a 350-hectare estate in Rosario, Batangas, which is allegedly owned by Binay.

The whistle-blowers in the Senate probe are former Makati officials led by ex-Makati Vice Mayor Ernesto Mercado, an erstwhile trusted aide of Binay.

Present in Senate

Aquino said all pieces of evidence must be presented in the Senate so that those who must be charged should be charged and those who must be absolved should be absolved so “we can all focus and go back to our other work.”

But the President said he respected the power of the Senate to conduct investigations.

Binay is facing a plunder complaint in the Office of the Ombudsman in connection with the allegedly overpriced Makati City Hall parking building.

The Vice President is also facing a probe by the Department of Justice.

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On Monday, Senate President Franklin Drilon disclosed that Aquino had relayed to him Binay’s request that the Senate blue ribbon subcommittee probe be stopped.

Drilon said he turned down Binay’s request.

Aquino said he was merely relaying the request of Binay.

The President said he was keeping Binay on his Cabinet as he expressed his wish that the Senate would be able to wrap up soon its investigation of the corruption allegations against the latter.

Presumption of innocence

Aquino said he did not think that he would just let go of a Cabinet member who was doing his job but was facing an issue that the President said he had not tasked the latter to do.

“I think the Vice President, without taking any side, is entitled to the presumption of innocence until proven guilty which is a fundamental right which can be found in Article 3 of the Constitution,” he said in reply to whether the controversies hounding Binay would affect the way he sees the Vice President.

The President said that some quarters would say it was because he was a friend of Binay.

“I say that if all those sued are immediately treated as guilty, can we still find people to recruit?” the President said.

It was easy to make accusations against someone but it was also difficult when there was no proof to those accusations, he said.

He said there should be a “balance of politics and responsibility.”

“I’d like to think there are responsible members attending to other functions than this,” he said of the Senate.

Focus on bills

The President said the Senate had to focus its attention on bills, like the proposed Fiscal Rationalization Act.

Asked whether he hoped the Senate would end its inquiry, he made said that part of his job was to be “neutral” on the issue.

“At the end of the day there will be evidence, one way or the other, and then ensure that all of the processes are carried out,” he said.

He said he continues to talk to the Vice President.

Originally posted: 10:41 PM | Tuesday, November 11th, 2014

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TAGS: Aquino, Benigno Aquino III, corruption, Jejomar Binay, President Aquino, Vice President Binay
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