MANILA, Philippines – Just because I signed the documents doesn't mean I approved wrongdoing.
This is how Vice President Jejomar Binay argued that he should not be held accountable for the allegedly overpriced Makati Science High School building. It was an argument similar to the explanation of senators implicated in the pork barrel corruption scam.
In a counter-affidavit Binay submitted to the Ombudsman, the Vice President said that his signature on the documents for the project do not implicate him in the alleged conspiracy.
“As the head of office, I cannot be held criminally liable for allegedly signing these documents based on the reliance that:
There is no reason for me to doubt the reliability, genuineness, and due execution of the documents prepared by my subordinates and/or third parties,” Binay said.
A lawyer, Binay added, “My purported signature in the Documents was clearly made in the discharge of my functions as City Mayor of Makati.”
The Ombudsman's field investigation office recommended the filing of graft charges against the former Makati mayor of 21 years over the alleged bid rigging in the construction of the school building. The Ombudsman suspended Binay's son, Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin "Junjun" Binay Jr, over this same project.
In response, Binay submitted a counter-affidavit, saying he does not want his silence to be interpreted as “a purported admission or evidence of guilt.” The Office of the Vice President released the document on Thursday, July 16. (Read the document below.)
Binay's argument was reminiscent of the statement of senators detained over the pork barrel scam. Senators Jinggoy Estrada, Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr, and Juan Ponce Enrile said they should not be held responsible if implementing agencies and auditors did not check graft-tainted development projects. The senators' signatures appeared on documents endorsing the projects.
Like the senators, Binay might question the authenticity of his signature on the documents.
“Undeniably, without waiving my right to question the genuineness and due execution of my signature contained therein, the documents offered to establish the alleged conspiracy in this case fall short of the exacting standards of prevailing jurisprudence,” he said.
Binay's signature appears on 5 sets of documents in relation to the building:
“Assuming, ex gratia argumenti (without legal obligation), that certain irregularities attended the bidding of the project in question, my signatures as allegedly appearing in the Documents, do not prove that I am responsible for or that I tolerated such irregularities,” Binay said.
The complaint over the building is just one of the corruption allegations Binay faces as he runs for president in 2016 under the opposition banner.
The Vice President is also accused of corruption in the allegedly overpriced Makati parking building, a supposed land scam in Makati, and a land deal that reportedly shortchanged the Boy Scouts of the Philippines.
The Senate and the Anti-Money Laundering Council are also investigating the corruption allegations against Binay, a move which he dismisses as politically motivated. Binay also submitted a counter-affidavit to the Senate on the Makati parking building last year.
'Not grounds for impeachment'
Binay opened his new counter-affidavit by insisting on his immunity from prosecution. He said that as Vice President, he can only be removed through impeachment.
Binay said even if his critics try to impeach him, the complaint will not prosper, based on technical grounds.
“The alleged wrongdoings attributed to me were all supposedly done during my term as city mayor prior to my election as Vice President. Hence, assuming without admitting that said accusations are true, they cannot serve as grounds for my impeachment as they do not relate to acts committed during my term as Vice President,” Binay said.
On the merits of the complaint, Binay reiterated that allegations that he ordered former Makati City Engineer Nelson Morales to rig the bidding of the project was hearsay. Morales was gunned down in Albay in 2012.
Binay branded as “a brazen lie” the allegation of former Makati City Bids and Awards Committee vice chairman Mario Hechanova.
“What makes matters worse is that the foregoing libelous statement of Hechanova is not only hearsay, it is also attributed to a person who has long been deceased. This is the foulest form of libel as there is absolutely no way of determining the veracity of the statement,” Binay said.
The Vice President questioned the timing of Hechanova's testimony, saying they severed ties back in 2009. Binay said his political rival, former Makati Vice Mayor Ernesto Mercado, was Hechanova's “patron.” Mercado and Binay used to be allies but had a falling out when Binay reneged on his promise to endorse his friend as Makati mayor in 2010.
“In the absence of any independent evidence establishing the conspiracy, coupled by the long continued silence of Hechanova as well as his personal disdain for me and my family, Hechanova' statement cannot be considered to establish any form of culpability on my part.”
Binay added that conspiracy was not established because the only proof of this was his signature on the documents.
“Aside from the Documents, no other evidence is presented to indicate my participation in the planning, preparation and perpetration of the alleged conspiracy,” he said.
'Ombudsman extremely biased'
Binay also blasted Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales for what he called her “extreme bias” against him.
The opposition standard-bearer cited Morales' media statements that evidence against him was strong even if he had not yet responded to the Ombudsman's complaint.
“It is evident that whatever exculpatory evidence I may present will surely be thrust aside as the Ombudsman have (sic) already made a finding that the evidence of guilt is 'strong,'” Binay said.
“The [complaint] is clearly a ploy to harass, instigated by my political detractors, a matter that is fairly evidence from the Complaint itself,” he said.
Below is the full text of Binay's counter-affidavit: