All photos by Alecs Ongcal/Rappler
MANILA, Philippines – The man facing multiple corruption allegations, plunder complaints, and the longest running Senate accountability probe promises to continue the Aquino administration's anti-corruption campaign “when, not if” he becomes president.
Responding to questions at a media forum on Wednesday, June 10, Vice President Jejomar Binay said President Benigno Aquino III's crusade against crooks in government will be among his priorities as he seeks the presidency in 2016.
“Aalisin ko ang mga sige pa rin sa graft and corruption ngayon pero hindi naman si Pangulo kasama diyan (I will remove officials who are still involved in graft and corruption but the President is not part of that),” Binay said in a press briefing at the Luneta Hotel in Manila.
The opposition's standard-bearer commended Aquino's so-called tuwid na daan campaign (straight path). “Napakaganda niyan (That is a very good campaign)."
Binay boldly made the statements even as corruption remains the biggest issue against his candidacy.
The former Makati mayor is accused of leading a “grand conspiracy” to plunder P1.38 billion ($31 million) in public funds from the Makati City Hall II parking building, rigging bids in similar infrastructure projects, and owning a vast estate in Batangas in a Senate probe that uncovered one supposed anomaly after another.
The Vice President is also the subject of investigations by the Ombudsman, and the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC), which got the Court of Appeals to freeze his bank accounts for suspected “unlawful activities.” (READ: AMLC: Binay et all moved huge sums of US dollars)
Binay said he finally got a copy of the AMLC report, and his lawyers are studying it. He also said he has no idea where his alleged dummies Gerardo Limlingan, and Eduviges "Ebeng" Baloloy are.
He remained defiant, and merely repeated his refrain that the allegations are the work of his political detractors who failed to increase their popularity in election surveys.
The embattled Vice President even took the opportunity to joke with some reporters who teased, and flattered, him about his presidential bid.
He told one reporter: “Gusto ko na sinabi mo, 'Pag kayo ay naging pangulo,' imbis na 'Kung kayo ay naging pangulo (I like it when you say, 'When you become president,' and not ,'if you become president)."
'I'm not corrupt, just innovative'
Binay devoted a length of time not to respond to the allegations against him but to question people's perception of corruption.
The Vice President said he was not corrupt, but simply “innovative.”
“Our government, hindi tayo innovator eh. Kung nag-iinovate ka, chances are magkakakaso ka (Our government is not an innovator. If you innovate, chances are you will get sued),” he said.
Binay cited the case of the Makati parking building, whose construction he cut into 5 phases. The Vice President said this was not illegal even if the Commission on Audit (COA) called it a “red flag.”
He then went back to his practice as Makati mayor of offering burial assistance, and free caskets, which the COA also questioned. This became the subject of a lawsuit.
“Nagpunta ako sa COA. Sabi ko, bakit tuwing may gagawin akong bagong policy, hinahabla ako? Sabi nila, 'No law allows it.' Sabi ko naman, 'No law prohibits it.' Sabi niya, 'Magkita tayo sa husgado.' Tadtad ako ng kaso. 'Di ako lumalabag sa batas. Sabi ng Supreme Court puwede magkaroon ng burial assistance, basta may pera lang at may appropriation,” he said.
(I approached COA. I asked, how come every time I have a new policy, you sue me? They said, "No law allows that." I said, "But no law prohibits it." They said, "We will just see each other in court." I have so many cases. I did not violate the law. The Supreme Court said burial assistance is allowed as long as there is funding and appropriation.)
What Binay calls “innovation,” the COA and the Senate blue ribbon subcommittee report questioned as “red flags,” and shortcuts. The COA, for example, cited the “undue haste” in awarding the contract of the parking building while the Senate noted the lack of procurement plans, and violations of the building code. (READ: COA: Red flags, undue haste, in Makati building)
Still, Binay said the fact that he was never suspended showed that he is not corrupt.
Yet when he was Makati mayor, Binay actually faced a suspension order under the Arroyo administration in 2006 for allegedly having ghost employees in the city government's payroll. Like what his son did in March, the elder Binay holed up in his office in the city hall, and then challenged his suspension in court.
“'Di ako nakatikim ng suspension. I was never suspended kasi tama ako. Noong sinuspinde ako, nagkulong ako sa city hall. Sabi ko isasauli ko ang certificate ko bilang abogado kung mapatunayang mali ako,” Binay said.
(I never experienced suspension because I am right. When I was suspended, I holed up in the city hall. I said I will return my certificate as a lawyer if proven wrong.)
Binay blamed “society” for the prevailing perception that he is among the country's most corrupt officials.
“Sinasabi na pag si Mrs ganito, maganda ang hikaw, nakaw iyan! Naniniwala agad (They say if a lady has nice earrings, those are automatically stolen. People immediately believe that.) Unfortunately, we are a negatively thinking society.”
Senate critics 'insecure'
Binay rejected senators' call for him to respond to the committee report recommending plunder charges against him by facing the hearing.
“The demeanor [of the senators] will not change. This is part of their political preparation,” he said.
The Vice President said that he responded to the committee by submitting an affidavit, and holding press briefings. He failed to point out that these avenues did not allow senators to subject him to questions.
Binay said the Senate probe even boomeranged on his critics who are also eyeing higher office. Senators Antonio Trillanes IV and Alan Peter Cayetano have expressed interest in running in 2016.
“Ang mga funders ay mga negosyante. Gusto malaman kung may pag-asa pa ang kanilang mga kandidato, kung makakaangat pa ang mga alaga nila. Unfortunately, 'di nangyari sa survey. Ang alaga nila, lalo pang bumababa.”
(Their funders are businessmen. They want to know if their bets still have chances. Unfortunately, they did not go up in surveys. Their rankings even went down.)
Binay boasted that he already recovered from the slump in his ratings due to the Senate investigation.
“Ito ba ginagawa nila dahil ako ay naghayag na ako ay kandidato? Number one ako sa survey kaya insecure sila (Are they doing this because I declared my candidacy? I am number one in surveys, that's why they are insecure)." – Rappler.com