Pimentel responds: Only Binay's life improved

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Aquilino Pimentel III responded to Vice President Jejomar Binay's controversial Magpakalalaki ka” (Be a man) letter by challenging him to once and for all attend the Senate inquiry into corruption allegations against him. 

Pimentel sent Binay a 3-page letter dated Monday, June 29, where he questioned Binay's continued refusal to face the Senate, and defended his panel's findings recommending plunder charges against the Vice President. 

The senator did not dignify Binay's reference to his sexuality but instead poked fun at his former ally's campaign slogan. (Read the full letter below.) 

“As someone who campaigned and voted for you as Vice President in 2010, I feel that I got fooled by your catchy slogan 'Kay Binay Gaganda ang Buhay' because what has been revealed is that 'Si Binay Gumanda ang Buhay!'” 

The senator replied to Binay's June 24 letter, where the Vice President criticized as part of a “demolition campaign” Pimentel's call for an audit of housing agencies he used to head as housing czar. Binay's letter became a hot topic online, as netizens questioned his use of the line “Magpakalalaki ka” as crass and gender insensitive. 

Pimentel crowdsourced his response to Binay via social media. 

In his reply, the chairman of the Senate blue ribbon sub-committee again invited Binay to show up when the panel resumes its probe on July 7. 

“This may be your final chance to address point-by-point all the issues and allegations hurled against you in the course of the hearings. I most respectfully suggest that you attend because only the truth can set you free,” Pimentel wrote. 

The Senate is investigating a wide range of corruption allegations against Binay and his family, including the supposedly overpriced Makati parking building and Makati Science High School, accusations they own a lavish estate in Batangas, and a land deal of the boy scouts where the Vice President reportedly got a kickback for his 2010 campaign funds. 

The opposition standard-bearer, Binay has repeatedly refused to attend the Senate probe. He routinely dismissed the corruption charges as a political ploy to thwart his 2016 presidential candidate. Binay was mayor of Makati for 21 years. 

'Hiding is illogical' 

Pimentel said he read the November 2014 letter of Binay to the Senate where the Vice President begged off from attending the hearings out of “fear of being disrespected.” 

The senator said he cannot understand Binay's reason as he would not allow the Vice President to be disrespected. 

“Dahil sa sobrang takot ninyo na mabastos sa hearing ay hinayaan na lang ninyo ang pag-aakusa sa inyo ng krimen na kasing bigat ng pandarambong. Logical ba iyon? Dahil lamang sa sobrang takot na mabastos?” 

Pimentel went on: “Pareho po naman tayong abogado, at alam natin na ang takot sa imbestigasyon ay iyon lamang may 'tinatago.”

(Because you were so afraid of being disrespected in the hearing, you allowed that you be accused of a crime as grave as plunder. Is that logical? Just because you were afraid of being disrespected? We are both lawyers, and we know that the only ones afraid of investigations are those who have something to hide.) 

In a separate letter to the Commission on Audit (COA), Pimentel formalized his request for the agency to conduct a performance and financial audit of the shelter agencies under Binay. 

He made the request after Binay resigned as chairman of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) last week, a political move meant to establish himself as the opposition's presidential bet. 

Pimentel reiterated to Binay that the request was not related to politics. 

“Have we forgotten that 'Public Office is a Public Trust?' We were together in one political party for close to 30 years. I would never be a party to a demolition campaign against you,” Pimentel wrote. 

Pimentel and Binay used to be close allies in the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban), where Binay and the senator's father, Senator Aquilino Pimentel Jr, were stalwarts since the martial law days. (READ: Binay-Pimentel: The ties that bind)

Yet the younger Pimentel cut ties with Binay after the Vice President drafted resigned Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri in his 2013 senatorial slate. Pimentel filed an electoral protest against Zubiri for allegedly cheating him in the 2007 polls. 

Last year, Binay suddenly bolted PDP-Laban without informing Pimentel, the party president. 

The Vice President is now chairman of the opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), which will launch on Wednesday. 

'Hearsay evidence' 

In his letter to COA, Pimentel asked the body's chairman Michael Aguinaldo to look into the books of the following shelter agencies during the time Binay was housing czar from 2010 to 2015: 

Pimentel also asked COA to check the claims of Senator Antonio Trillanes IV that Pag-IBIG Fund granted developmental loans to Binay's associates and friends, and that the sole insurance brokerage Pag-IBIG Fund tapped “is controlled by persons associated with the Vice President.” 

Pag-IBIG Fund president Darlene Berberabe denied Trillanes' claims in a previous hearing. 

As for Binay, he issued a statement only on Monday to rebut the Senate report on the Makati parking building that came out in early June. 

The Vice President said the report was “uncorroborated and faulty,” merely relying on the claims of his political rival, former Makati Vice Mayor Ernesto Mercado.

“Mr. Mercado claims I was supposedly received a 13% kickback from all infrastructure projects in Makati City. He himself admitted that this is based only on what Engr. Nelson Morales allegedly told him. However the rules of court state this claim is inadmissible for being hearsay evidence.  What’s worse is that he is attributing statements and acts to a person who is already deceased,” Binay said.

Binay added that the contractor that bagged major infrastructure projects of Makati, Hilmarc's Construction Corporation, cleared him of the charge that he got kickbacks.  

The Vice President has yet to respond to Pimentel's invitation for him to attend the next hearing. – Rappler.com