#Journeyto30 Notes on Binay
Epi Fabonan III (The Philippine Star) - March 26, 2016 - 10:00am

MANILA, Philippines – Last week Vice President Jejomar Binay did a show-stopping move that backfired on him.

Binay delayed the second leg of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) presidential debate by more than an hour, after he insisted on bringing his notes to the podium, which turned out to be a violation of the poll body’s established debate rules.

According to the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) standard bearer, his spokesman contacted TV5 head of news and debate moderator Luchi Cruz-Valdez about four to five days before the debate to ask permission to bring the documents to the podium, which was granted.

The other three presidential candidates – Rodrigo Duterte, Grace Poe and Mar Roxas, –blatant violation of debate rules.

“Ito ang isang dahilan bakit hindi tayo umuusad bilang isang bansa, kanya-kanyang rules, kanya-kanyang interpretation (This is one reason why we can’t move forward as one nation. Everyone has his own set of rules and interpretation),”  Roxas said.

“Rule of law, pero meron din tayong mga rules ngayon na dapat sinunod. Siguro maganda ring pahiwatig ang pagalang din sa batas at naging mga regulasyon ng debateng ito (There were rules that should have been followed. It would have been good to show respect for the rules as well as the regulations of this debate),” Poe said.

The debate was finally able to start after Valdez issued an apology to Binay and took responsibility for the miscommunication that happened. She admitted giving Binay permission to use his notes, without realizing that it was a violation of debate rules.

According to Binay’s son, dismissed Makati City mayor Junjun Binay, his father’s notes were actually documents that would exonerate him from corruption allegations that were hurled against him.

Corruption allegations against Binay first surfaced in July 2014, when two former barangay chairmen, Nicolas Enciso VI and Renato Bondal, filed a plunder complaint against him, his son Junjun and other respondents before the Office of the Ombudsman. The complaint alleged that the 11-story Makati City Hall II parking building was overpriced.

The plunder complaint led to a parallel Senate Blue Ribbon Committee probe that started in August 2014 and concluded in January 2016. The Senate probe not only revealed the details behind the alleged overpricing of the Makati City Hall II parking building but also revealed other corruption allegations such as the overpricing of birthday cakes given to the city’s senior citizens.

The man behind the new revelations, former Makati City vice mayor Ernesto Mercado, revealed that Binay received a 13-percent kickback from every project in the city, including the parking building and the birthday cakes.

But perhaps his most damning revelation was when he accused Binay of being the owner of a 350-hectare property in Rosario, Batangas. Dubbed as Hacienda Binay, the property features a lush British palace-like garden, an air-conditioned piggery, a horse ranch, an imported orchid farm and a mansion with a resort pool.

To allow Binay to answer the charges against him, the Senate Blue Ribbon committee invited him to appear in the investigation, but he staunchly refused. Instead, he held a press conference at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) on Sept. 18, 2014 where he strongly denied allegations against him, as shown in The Philippine STAR’s front page the following day.

“Mga kaibigan, bakit nila sasabihing overpriced ang Makati City Hall Building II kung halos pareho naman ang presyo nito sa ibang gusaling pampubliko? Bakit ang mga proyekto ng mga kasama sa pulitika itinuturing na matuwid at tama? Pero pag sa iba ay agad na kinakastigong tiwali at baluktot (My friends, why would they say the Makati City Hall Building II is overpriced when all other public buildings are priced the same? Why are the projects of our colleagues in politics always straight and aboveboard while projects handled by non-allies are always anomalous and crooked)?” he said.

From the start, when allegations were first raised against him, Binay didn’t want to face his opponents. Rather, he defended himself in his own space, inviting the media over to cover his speeches. He even released a TV ad last year, portraying himself as maligned and oppressed by his political opponents. He packaged himself as an underdog defamed by those he called “Goebbel’s disciples,” as he said in the debate, referring to Poe and Roxas.

Which is why it’s baffling – and somewhat silly – that Binay wanted to use the Comelec presidential debates to present his documentary evidence when he clearly has capabilities and funds to mount a successful media campaign to polish his tarnished name. He could have simply come up with full-page ads in major dailies to present his evidence, or fund a TV commercial or fancy website. Or, he could have just saved himself the trouble by appearing at the Senate hearings in the first place.

By deliberately bending the rules and asking permission from Valdez, rather than the Comelec, to bring his notes, Binay started a dangerous precedent – that embattled politicians like him are entitled to a right to reply to accusations against them through any venue or medium they want. It obliges media organizations to become mouthpieces of public officials, even by those who are corrupt and decadent.

Unfortunately, karma quickly struck Binay at the Comelec debate. He left the venue defeated and scorned, refusing to shake the hands of his fellow candidates. So much for bringing notes in an exam that clearly disallows it.

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