Rivals gang up on Binay
CEBU CITY—His rivals for the presidency ganged up on Vice President Jejomar Binay, trying to pin him down on corruption allegations against him during the second presidential debate in Cebu City on Sunday night.
The air crackled with electricity, tempers flared and angry words flew as independent candidate Sen. Grace Poe, the ruling Liberal Party’s Mar Roxas and Partido Demokratikong Pilipino-Laban ng Bayan standard-bearer Rodrigo Duterte took turns whacking Binay, who is accused in the Office of the Ombudsman of pocketing billions of pesos in graft money from overpriced infrastructure contracts when he was mayor of Makati City.
Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, presidential candidate of the People’s Reform Party, was not there to join the battering of Binay. She announced last week that she was skipping the second debate to participate in a clinical trial for a new cancer treatment.
The graft charges against Binay dominated the debate, overshadowing other issues raised, including national security, climate change and tax reforms.
The debate at the University of the Philippines Cebu was supposed to start at 5 p.m., but it was delayed by more than an hour because of a fracas over the use of notes.
Binay wanted to use notes during the debate, but Roxas, Poe and Duterte protested, citing debate rules prohibiting notes.
The head of the TV5 news and public affairs department and debate moderator, Luchi Cruz-Valdez, apologized for the delay, calling it a serious case of “miscommunication.”
She took responsibility of the delay, and the debate began at 6:35 p.m.
Within minutes of the confrontation, the candidates showed that they were ready for a brawl, unlike in the first presidential debate in Cagayan de Oro City on Feb. 21 when they were nice to each other.
Binay found himself on the receiving end of accusations of dirty deals and transactions during his decades-long stint as the mayor of Makati City, drawing punches from Poe, who engaged him in a bruising exchange, Roxas and Duterte.
In one of the most hostile exchanges, Binay and Poe butted heads over the Vice President’s corruption cases and the junior senator’s citizenship.
Poe got the ball rolling by making an analogy about Binay’s refusal to abide by debate rules by bringing notes to the forum to his respect—or lack of it—for rule of law.
In retaliation, Binay brought up Poe’s citizenship woes.
“We’re talking about rule of law, but you always say you’re a true Filipino. How can you be called a true Filipino if you swore allegiance [to the United States], and you are ashamed of your origins?” he said.
“How can you say I am ashamed of being a Filipino? You say you are No. 1 in protecting OFWs (overseas Filipino workers), and you are saying those who live abroad have no right to serve,” Poe retorted
“I’m not saying you’re an OFW,” Binay began again.
But Poe cut him: “I’m not saying I’m an OFW. I’m saying I am someone who went to another land because I wanted the opportunity for a better life. This is not about color. You may be living here, yet you stole money.”
“You speak as if there is already a ruling against me,” Binay said.
Poe retorted: “Did I say it was you who stole? I did not say it was you.”
Binay accused Poe of being “part of the conspiracy” against him.
Roxas launched into the details of the corruption allegations against Binay.
He cited some of the findings of the Commission on Audit, such as hospital beds that supposedly cost P16,000 but were purchased at P1.5 million, and ultrasound machine worth P1.3 million but was bought for P1.5 million.
Binay did not answer the question point by point, noting instead that “in the Sandiganbayan, many cases have been defeated because they were only doing table surveys.”
“You don’t look at the price in assessing the quality of what you buy. Let me repeat, only the courts can judge,” he said.
Roxas also found himself defending the Aquino administration on allegations of corruption and selective justice.
Poe said the administration’s “kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap” slogan remained just that.
Administration allies get projects and are spared from charges. Only those from the opposition are charged, she said.
Roxas disputed Poe’s statement. “LP, non-LP, all face charges were are removed from their posts. You can see that. That is the record, that is the truth, that is not a figment of the imagination,” he said.
Lost to corruption
Duterte said allocations in the budget were good, but part of the money was lost to corruption.
The pugnacious mayor of Davao City reserved much of his ammunition for Roxas, whom he called at one point “a fraud,” accusing President Aquino’s chosen presidential candidate of faking his economics degree from University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.
Roxas said the problem with Duterte was that he only looked at the “truth” in his own mind without checking the facts.
He said Wharton had already confirmed that he graduated from that school.
On climate change and the Philippines’ commitment to reduce carbon emissions while depending on coal plants for energy, Duterte said the Philippines was not a major contributor to carbon emissions.
Duterte said First World countries, which are highly industrialized, are the bigger offenders.
Roxas said it was important to begin the transition to clean energy because the Philippines bore the brunt of the effects of climate change.
Poe said the first thing that needed to be done was to evacuate 13 million residents in high-risk areas and build dams, water entrapment facilities and flood control projects.
Roxas said Poe’s suggestions were just mitigation measures. If he becomes President, he said, he would give incentives to those who would pursue renewable energy projects.
Security for tight for the debate organized by the Commission on Elections, Philippine Star and TV5. Some 780 policemen were deployed to UP Cebu and the surroundings of the venue to ensure public safety. With reports from Kristine Angeli Sabillo, Inquirer.net; and Connie E. Fernandez, Ador Vincent Mayol, Victor Silva and Michelle Padayhag, Inquirer Visayas
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