Binay: Senate probe ‘badly written telenovela’

MANILA, Philippines – “Telenovelang testimonya na masama ang pagkakasulat (A testimony that’s a badly written soap opera)."

Vice President Jejomar Binay mocked the Senate inquiry on allegations he earned from overpricing a Makati “parking building,” saying his critics in the Senate and local political rivals mouthed off one poor script.

Imitating the questions of Senators Antonio Trillanes IV and Alan Peter Cayetano, Binay implied that he will not face the Senate investigation and even called it a “fishing expedition, malicious, baseless, and political.”

Ang mga binitawang salita at inasal nila Senador Trillanes at Cayetano ay nagpapatunay sa aking pangamba na ang imbestigasyon ng Senado ay isang politicized forum para hanapan kami ng criminal liability at hindi in aid of legislation,” Binay said in a press briefing on Wednesday, August 27.

(The words and demeanor of Senators Trillanes and Cayetano prove my fear that the Senate investigation is a politicized forum to find criminal liability against us and is not in aid of legislation.) 

The man leading presidential surveys for the 2016 polls quipped, “In aid of legislation pala tingnan kung qualified ako maging pangulo (So it’s in aid of legislation to find out if I am qualified to run for president)? Wow!"

Cayetano and Trillanes quickly criticized Binay’s press conference, saying he was unable to explain how the price of the 11-storey Makati building reached over P2 billion ($50.36 million) but again just cried "politics." The two senators are eyeing higher office in 2016, going up against Binay who is leading presidential surveys.

Trillanes made a sarcastic remark when asked about Binay’s statement that Makati even saved P200 million ($4.57 million*) from the project.

“Kung nakamura pa pala, eh ‘di kailangan pala magpasalamat ang sambayanang Pilipino. Magpapa-piyesta tayo siguro kasi naka-savings pa si VP Binay(If Makati got a bargain, why the entire nation should thank him. Let us hold a feast because VP Binay even gave us savings!)"

Cayetano said Binay’s hour-long press briefing fell short of justifying how the government building was even more expensive than luxury condominiums.

“I think the Vice President has become the chairman of the North and South Diversion Road because he is good at diverting issues,” Cayetano told Rappler.

Binay and his son Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin “Junjun” Binay Jr are accused of overpricing the so-called parking building known as the Makati City Hall Building 2 by almost P2 billion ($45.80 million). They are the subjects of the Senate inquiry and a plunder complaint before the Ombudsman over the issue.

‘Trillanes cussed, insulted contractor’

Binay said that at the sidelines of the second Senate hearing on the building on Tuesday, Trillanes supposedly badgered a representative of Hilmarc’s Construction Corporation, the company that won the bid for all 5 phases of the structure.

“Tinangka ding pigilan ni Senador Trillanes ang testimonya ng kinatawan ng kontratista ng proyekto, at pagkatapos magtestigo ay dinuro, tinakot at minura at ipinasama pa sa reklamo ng plunder dahil hindi pabor sa kanila ang sinabi ng nasabing kinatawan ng kontratista,” Binay said.

(Senator Trillanes tried to stop the testimony of a representative of Hilmarc, and after he testified, Trillanes even pointed his finger at him, threatened him and cussed him and asked that he be included in the plunder charge because what he said is not in their favor.)

Hilmarc's president Robert Henson testified that the price of the building was due to the high quality of materials used, and the expensive cost of steel during the time of construction because of the Beijing Olympics.

Trillanes refused to confirm or deny the charge but bristled at Binay’s statement.

“If there was a confrontation, how did the Vice President know? That means they are conniving or they are partners. It validates everything. If this was relayed to him, that means they are talking and it means they are conniving,” Trillanes said.

Trillanes and Cayetano have questioned why Hilmarc's was Makati’s “favorite contractor,” winning the bids for other buildings of the city government. Cayetano has also said that the company’s chairman of the board, Efren Canlas, has ties with Mayor Junjun Binay.

Trillanes defended himself from the Vice President’s barb that he asked “leading questions” from Binays’ critics while cutting off Makati officials.

“These Senate investigations, they are not a trial court. This is not a courtroom. We can extract information no matter what style we want provided we respect the rights of the resource persons,” said Trillanes.

Binay and his allies said senators should have castigated lawyer Renato Bondal when he admitted that his claim that the Makati cakes were worth P1,000 each ($22.89) was just a “guess.”

Yet Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, who is leading the investigation, said Bondal should not be charged with perjury. “It was obvious in his preliminary statement where he said, ‘There is no shadow of the price in Makati’ so it was obvious that he was just guessing. Perjury is when you are lying on material points.”

Binay also blasted Trillanes for failing to ask his rival, former Makati Vice Mayor Ernesto Mercado, for details on the supposed kickbacks he got from the building.

“Don’t worry, Vice President Binay,” Trillanes said. “That will be stated in the right time. Just relax, don’t panic.”

Instead of holding Bondal and Mercado liable, Trillanes said the committee will even recommend that they be put under the witness protection program. Pimentel said the panel is already doing this but Mercado has yet to express interest in the plan.

‘Tell us when is right time’

For Cayetano, Binay is guilty of a double standard when he called on former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to face the various allegations against her but now uses her same line of “politics” to evade the Senate inquiry.

Binay again refused to say if he will appear before the Senate. He said Cayetano and Trillanes were only after media mileage because a survey on 2016 is about to start next week. 

Cayetano shot back: “Let me ask you Vice President Binay: When is the most convenient time for you to explain why an P800 million building was priced at P2.2 billion? We will adjust our schedule for you. Let us postpone the survey. You tell us when is the best time.” – Rappler.com

 *$1 = P43.69