VP Binay to speak on 'state of the country,' kickback claims

MANILA, Philippines – The Vice President has had enough of the Senate – or at least of two senators – “setting the agenda.”

On Monday, September 15, Vice President Jejomar Binay will hold an event to “give a general overview of what’s going on,” Cavite Governor Juanito Victor Remulla, Binay’s spokesman for political affairs, told Rappler on Friday, September 12.

Remulla said in various interviews that Binay would deliver a "national address" to respond to the allegations against him “point-by-point” on Monday.

"He will answer on his own terms. He will answer the most important questions of all and he will give you a broader perspective of what is really happening," he said in one interview.

The Vice President is being accused of profiting from an “overpriced” Makati building that began construction when he was city mayor. The building is the basis of plunder raps against him and his son, incumbent Makati mayor Jejomar Erwin “Junjun” Binay.

The building is at the center of the Senate Blue Ribbon sub-committee probe, which has branched into other allegations of corruption against the Vice President and members of his family.

The September 15 "event" comes after his news conference on August 27, where he addressed allegations that he pocketted money from city projects when he was Makati mayor.

The Vice President will be taking the same strategy – rather than directly address the allegations at the Senate hearing, he would speak directly to the people. One of the Vice President's spokesmen, Joey Salgado, had earlier said that for the Vice President, “the people are the final judge and not the senators."

 On August 27, the Vice President read a lengthy statement denying the allegations against him, and said the city even “saved” P200 million from the construction of the controversial building while fielding questions from reporters.

The last news briefing was held in his official residence, the Coconut Palace, but Binay's September 15 address – judging by the venue, the Philippine International Convention Center – will be on a much bigger scale.

Remulla said Binay “feels that it’s the time to speak up, it’s time to be heard" – though this is something that he was supposed to have accomplished in his last news conference.

Since his August 27 press conference, more and more accusations have been hurled against the Vice President and members of his family by  former allies and city employees.

Issues neglected

Remulla said Binay will speak on his thoughts on the “state of the country.” Issues that have taken the backseat because of the Senate’s probe include traffic, crime, and port congestion. The Vice President will also speak up on “what he feels about the political circus,” said Remulla.

The Binays and their spokespersons have criticized the Senate probe, saying it was not being done “in search of the truth.” Instead, Senator Nancy Binay said it’s “about media mileage for people who have plans for 2016.”

The two senators leading the Senate probe – Senators Antonio Trillanes IV and Alan Peter Cayetano – have both expressed a desire to run for higher office come 2016. The Vice President, meanwhile, will definitely gun for the presidency in the next elections.

Both senators and sub-committee chairman Senator Aquilino Pimentel III have denied these accusations. On Thursday, September 1, Trillanes made a motion to formally invite the Vice President to the probe.

At the same time, the Senate will subpoena Junjun Binay and other former officials who allegedly received millions in kickbacks in behalf of the Vice President. The invite was received by the Vice President’s office Thursday night.

Although the Binay camp has previously said Vice President Binay has no plan to attend the Senate hearing, Remulla said “no doors have been closed by the Vice President.”

Effects on 2016?

What effect will the probe have on Binay’s 2016 dreams? None, if the Binay camp is to be believed.

“This hearing has taken a life of its own. You see Mercado saying one thing, meaning another the next time. You see a witness claiming cakes cost P1,000....This really is a circus,” said Remulla, referring to the probe.

In the face of the initial allegations made by former Makati vice mayor Ernesto Mercado, Malacañang maintained its  “trust and confidence” in Binay as a member of the President's official family, but would not outrightly defend him. 

'TRUST, CONFIDENCE.' Is the president distancing himself from the vice president? File photo from Malacau00f1ang Photo Bureau

'TRUST, CONFIDENCE.

' Is the president distancing himself from the vice president? File photo from Malacau00f1ang Photo Bureau

On Friday, President Benigno Aquino III seemed to have showed where he stood on the Vice President, who is also the leader of the political opposition. Vice President Binay was not invited to a gathering of Aquino’s allies in Malacañang which officials said was “agenda-setting” and featured “reformists and like-minded public servants from government and civil society.”

Binay is doing well in early presidential polls. In contrast, the ruling Liberal Party’s presumed standard-bearer Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II, lags far behind.

Although results of surveys covering the period of the Senate probe have yet to be released, Remulla said it’s unlikely they’ll make a dent on Binay’s ratings.

“He’s very confident of the Filipino sentiment. [The issue] may shock some…but they will stay with the Vice President,” said Remulla. – Rappler.com