Binay uses SAF 44 to hit Aquino

CAVITE, Philippines – With the mural of the slain 44 elite cops as his backdrop, Vice President Jejomar Binay used the Special Action Force (SAF) to lambast the supposedly inept Aquino administration.

The highlight of Binay's “True State of the Nation Address” (SONA) was his roll call of the names of the slain SAF 44 at the end of his speech, a swipe at President Benigno Aquino III's silence on the commandos in his SONA last week.

The opposition standard-bearer delivered an hour-long speech at the Cavite State University in this vote-rich province on Monday, August 3, to a crowd of students required to hear him speak and Makati residents who were bussed in. (READ: FULL TEXT: 'Yumaman ang iilan, mahirap pa rin ang bayan)

“Sa Mamasapano, apatnapu’t apat ang nagbuwis ng buhay at marami ang sugatan.

Ngunit kahit pahapyaw, hindi nabanggit ang kanilang kabayanihan sa SONA. Kahit TY ay wala,” said Binay.

He added, “Buti pa ang hair stylist at fashion designer, kasama sa mahabang listahan ng pinasalamatan.”

(In Mamasapano, 44 SAF troopers laid down their lives and many were wounded. But even just for a short time, their heroism was not mentioned in the SONA. Even a "thank you," there was none. Good for the President's hair stylist and fashion designer, they were part of the long list of people he thanked.)

In Aquino's final SONA, the President devoted a length of his speech to thank people who helped him, ranging from his Cabinet members to his hair stylist, fashion designer, and house help. Critics and netizens questioned Aquino's silence on the so-called SAF 44.

The Mamasapano clash was the worst crisis to hit the Aquino administration, bringing down the President's popularity. SAF troopers were on a mission to arrest Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, on January 25, but an encounter with Moro rebels killed 67 Filipinos, including 44 commandos.

The tragedy endangered the peace process with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), a key priority of the Aquino administration.

Binay's staff brought the mural of the SAF 44 to the university. Binay's spokesman Joey Salgado said that the Office of the Vice President now hosts the mural after “someone higher up” told the Philippine National Police Academy (PNPA) to put it down. The mural was initially unveiled at the PNPA.  

The Vice President twice saluted the mural during and after his speech.

Binay's tribute to the SAF got one of the loudest cheers and applause from the audience. The crowd included his wife, former Makati Mayor Elenita Binay, daughter Senator Nancy Binay, and supporters Cavite Governor Jonvic Remulla, former Candaba, Pampanga, Mayor Jerry Pelayo, actress-turned-Parañaque Councilor Alma Moreno, and lawyer Harry Roque. 

The Vice President has gone on the offensive against the administration after resigning from the Cabinet, and formally launching his presidential bid on July 1. Binay was housing czar, and presidential adviser on Overseas Filipino Workers' concerns for 5 years.

Attacks on Roxas, Poe, Abad

The Vice President also used his speech to attack his reported rivals for the presidency: Interior Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas II and Senator Grace Poe.

On Roxas, Binay again blasted the Aquino administration's supposed failed and callous leadership, and hit the President's chosen successor, Roxas.

Aquino endorsed Roxas as the presidential candidate of the ruling Liberal Party (LP) last Friday, July 31. A neophyte senator, Poe is still contemplating on her plans for higher office in 2016.

“Lalong magiging mailap ang maginhawang buhay kung bibigyan pa ng anim na taon ang isang administrasyong walang malasakit sa mahihirap,” Binay said.

“Malalagay sa alanganin ang kinabukasan ng ating mga anak sa lideratong kapos sa karanasan o kaya ay may karanasan nga ngunit napatunayang palpak.”

(A better life will be harder to achieve if we give this administration another 6 years even if it has no concern for the poor. We will put the future of our children in danger if we go for someone lacking experience, or vote someone experienced but was proven to be a failure.)

Binay sought to use the class card by hitting Roxas and Poe's affluent backgrounds. To appeal to the masses comprising most of the electorate, Binay always highlights his origins as a poor orphan.

“Patuloy na maghihirap ang masang Pilipino kung ang mamumuno ay mga taong ni minsan sa buhay nila ay hindi naranasan ang magutom at mahiga sa matigas na sahig.”

(The Filipino masses will continue to suffer if our leader will be a person who never in her or her life experienced what it is like to be hungry, and to lie down on the floor.)

Binay also used part of his speech to blast LP stalwart Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, known as the architect of the administration's stimulus measure, the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).

The Supreme Court struck down parts of DAP but upheld the principle of good faith, a chief argument of the administration. Still, Binay reiterated that Abad must be prosecuted.

“Wika nga ng paboritong blogger ng administrasyon, 'I’ve got your back.' Kaya untouchable ang budget scam mastermind ng administrasyon,” Binay said.

(As the administration's favorite blogger said, 'I've got your back.' So the mastermind of the budget scam of the administration is untouchable.)

Four places, 3 acronyms

Binay targeted what he called the 4 places and 3 acronyms that illustrate the incompetence of the Aquino administration.

He identified the Mamasapano crisis, August 2010 Luneta hostage-taking crisis, Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in Tacloban in 2013, and the 2013 Zamboanga siege as the 4 crises of Aquino.

The Vice President mocked and taunted the administration by repeating the lines it used in response to these crises. He recounted the controversial video between Roxas and Tacloban Mayor Alfred Romualdez at the height of Yolanda.

“Sa halip na tugunan ang hinaing ng local government, pilit pang pinapirma ng secretary ng DILG ang mayor ng lungsod sa isang pormal na kasulatan. Kailangan daw ito bago tumulong ang national government. Aquino daw kasi ang presidente at ang mayor ay isang Romualdez.”

“Nang ayaw pumayag ang mayor, ang sagot ng DILG secretary: bahala kayo sa buhay ninyo,” he said.

(Instead of addressing the concerns of the local government, the DILG secretary asked the mayor to sign a formal document. He said it was needed for the national government to help out. He said the President was an Aquino while the mayor was a Romualdez. When the mayor did not agree, the DILG secretary said: 'You look out for yourselves.')

Binay also criticized the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) system. In his SONA, Aquino defended the administration by blaming private corporations for the train's poor services.

Yet Binay said the government's decision to change the maintenance provider was the root of the problem.

“They replaced the company Sumitomo which is world-renowned and has a long track record with a new company that has no experience, PH Trams Company. And who is behind PH Trams? The allies and partymates of the former and current Transportation secretary,” Binay said.

On the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), Binay said that the bill must abide by the Constitution. He also alluded to allegations that money changed hands for lawmakers to support the measure. The BBL seeks to create a political entity with wider powers and resources than the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. 

“They should not force the BBL. The Palace must not railroad it in Congress. They should respect Congress as a co-equal branch. They should not threaten, force, or bribe Congress to do what the Palace wants,” Binay said.

Throughout his speech, Binay was true to Aquino's criticism of him during the SONA: that he was fond of pointing out problems without offering solutions.

The Vice President said he has yet to formulate his platform.

He told the crowd: “In the coming days, I will consult you – you who were left behind by the Straight Path – on the programs and policies we will put in place with the goal to benefit every Filipino.” – Rappler.com