Binay denies charges, hits Cayetano, Trillanes

Jose Rodel Clapano - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - They’re “all malicious, baseless and coated with politics,” said Vice President Jejomar Binay yesterday of allegations raised against him by Senators Antonio Trillanes IV and Alan Peter Cayetano, whom he accused of using the Senate Blue Ribbon committee to boost their political ambitions in 2016 at his and his family’s expense.

“I’m ready to face any fair and impartial investigation on all the allegations that are being hurled against me and my family,” Binay said while expressing surprise that the senators did not even consider filing criminal charges against his main accusers, former Makati Vice Mayor Ernesto Mercado and lawyer Renato Bondal. The Blue Ribbon committee is investigating the alleged anomalous Makati parking building project.

He said Mercado should be criminally charged for admitting having accepted money from the contractor of the Makati City Hall building 2 project. Bondal on the other hand should be charged with perjury, he said.

Binay said that as a long-time public servant, he has always been committed to transparency and accountability.

“But what has transpired in the Senate on Aug. 20 and 26, especially the words uttered by some senators, are proof that the Senate investigation is a politicized forum with the intention of throwing at us baseless allegations and lies,” Binay told a press conference.

He said he expects his detractors to up the ante in their bid to destroy him.

“These people will soon wave fake logbook, ledger, checks and other documents against me. I will not also be surprised that in the days to come, they will point at me as the one who masterminded an ‘ambush me’ incident because that is the direction of their telenovela testimony in the Senate which was written badly,” the vice president said.

Binay reiterated that the Makati City Hall building 2 project passed Commission on Audit (COA) scrutiny.

He said Trillanes even hurled invectives at a project contractor, stopped him from testifying and threatened him with plunder charges just because the senator did not like his statement.

“What are they afraid of? That the contractor will say that the project is not overpriced. That they have other projects in the government that are more expensive than the Building 2 of Makati. That the project was also divided into phases and their allies are involved in it,” Binay said.

Trillanes has not yet presented any concrete evidence that the Makati building 2 project was overpriced.

“The law says that to prove that the project is overpriced, there must be a comparison of two similar things,” Binay said.

“The NSO (National Statistics Office) stated that based on the building permit applications, their computation is not the actual construction cost. The expert that they used gave a market appraisal for a hypothetical building. It is not a comparison between two equal things,” Binay said.

“Even the handbook used by Trillanes stated that all buildings are assumed to have no basement except otherwise stated and are built on flat ground, with normal soil conditions and minimal external work. The cost excludes land cost, professional fees, finance and legal expenses. Meaning this is not a comparison between two similar things,” Binay said.

He stressed that funding for the building project being questioned was approved by the city council.


‘In aid of persecution’

Former Manila congressman Bienvenido Abante Jr. called on senators to stop the Blue Ribbon investigation, saying it was being done “in aid of persecution.”

Abante said that since Binay’s critics have already filed a plunder case against the vice president and his mayor son Junjun, “it is now up to the Office of the Ombudsman to determine whether these allegations are meritorious or not.”

“With the national elections fast approaching and with VP Binay dominating the surveys, there is the temptation to use investigations to influence voters by providing a venue to broadcast damning, but unproven, allegations,” he said.

He said the Senate inquiry is apparently not in aid of legislation, “since our procurement laws are already considered quite strict – and hardly require any tweaking.”

Abante pointed out that instead of inquiries, the Senate should attend to important pending legislative measures like those seeking to bring down the cost of electricity.

“Our people would be better served if senators focused on their primary purpose: the passage of laws. They are legislators, not litigators. Our country has too many problems, our citizens have too many concerns, for our senators to be spending precious time and energy on investigations,” he pointed out.

Meanwhile, Binay has tapped Cavite Gov. Jonvic Remulla as his new spokesman. Remulla, who moderated yesterday’s press conference of Binay, said current spokesman Joey Salgado would be the overall communications head of the vice president.

“He is good. He has shown his leadership as governor of Cavite,” Binay said of Remulla, a member of the Nacionalista Party (NP) of former senator Manny Villar.

For his part, United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) secretary-general and Navotas Rep. Toby Tiangco said that he had been consulting with Remulla even before the 2013 elections.

Tiangco said the entry of Remulla would enable him to concentrate on his job as spokesman for UNA.

“I was beaten in front, in rear, both sides and all over. That is why we need governor Remulla to work with us,” Tiangco said.

“Cavite being a large province, we have to consult the governor. We know he can help us. He knows the problem not only in Cavite. He has the feel of the real problems,” Tiangco said. – With Jess Diaz

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