Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Bungling the Binay debacle


Sixteen months into the official campaign period for the 2016 presidential election, the allegations against Vice President Jejomar Binay, perceived as the most formidable of possible candidates, are becoming more serious.

The longer the Vice President refuses to recognize the Senate blue ribbon subcommittee’s investigation of his alleged corrupt activities and delegates to spokespersons the task of denying the accusations, the more people would believe his erstwhile trusted allies.

Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago raised a valid point when she said that Binay is courting impeachment for betraying public trust if he continues to dismiss the allegations of corruption hurled against him and his family as part of a demolition job to destroy his chances of getting elected in 2016.

Santiago said it is about time that Binay confronts his accusers and present pieces of evidence that would dispute their claims of corruption and ill-gotten wealth.

“That is the normal reaction of an innocent person. He tears at his hair; he drives himself through the roof, he shouts to high heavens for justice, and then presents his evidence. He cannot just say, `they’re all lies, I deny all of them.’ That is not a defense. The presumption of innocence is not a defense,” Santiago said in an interview after she delivered a speech at the Philippine Association of Real Estate Boards, Inc. (PAREB) in Muntinlupa City on October 10.

At the same time, it is not difficult to understand where the Vice President stands.

“Ikaw kaya, sa mga napanood mo sisipot ka doon? Mata lang ang walang latay,” Binay said in a conversation with reporters. “Kawawa ka sa mundo, pinagdududuro ka, sinisigawan ka, tinatakot ka pa. Sila na lang ang magmoro-moro doon.”

The Vice President seems to have embraced the adage “less talk, less mistake.”

How do we get out of this political mess?

Binay cannot be charged in court because he enjoys immunity from criminal suit. The Senate does not have prosecutorial powers to indict the Vice President. Who among the congressmen would dare impeach him when surveys show him to have the highest approval rating among prospective candidates?

Yes, the Senate investigation may indeed have political colors given that the senators at the forefront have declared their intention to seek either the presidency or vice presidency, most probably under the administration umbrella.

Mercado’s testimony appears credible because he was part of some of the transactions and he candidly admitted it. Yes, he has an axe to grind against the Binays who had frustrated his desire to become mayor. He would have been the recipient of the largesse that the Binays had if the Vice President did not field his wife and son to succeed him when he ran for higher office.

The Senate blue ribbon subcommittee has extended its investigation of the allegedly overpriced P2.3-billion, 11-storey Makati City Hall building 2, to give Binay another chance to answer allegations that he received 13 percent kickbacks in every public works contracts in Makati City when he was still its mayor, and that he had arranged that public biddings be rigged for favored contractors.

On October 8, Binay’s erstwhile ally and former Makati City Vice Mayor Ernesto Mercado presented video footages and still photos of a 350-hectare estate in Rosario, Batangas that purportedly belonged to the vice president but was allegedly registered in the names of dummies to hide his ownership of the properties, as well as other corporations.

We have seen in previous exposes how public officials conceal ownership of bank accounts, properties and other assets to avoid getting tracked down.

The entry of the Department of Justice (DOJ), through the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), into the scene would hopefully find a way to establish the paper and people trails that could clearly establish ownership of the properties purportedly owned by the vice president and his family.

Hopefully, the NBI agents who would work on this would not be manipulated to favor one party over the other, and come up with credible findings that would either clear the innocents or prosecute the guilty. The situation presents a good opportunity to the DOJ and the NBI to prove its neutrality and credibility.

Let us hope that the probe was not intended only to bring Binay’s ratings down.

One positive outcome that this hullabaloo could possibly have is for the voters to responsibly exercise their right of suffrage, to scrutinize the candidates that they vote into office.

We could not just sit idly by and watch politicians who can sing, dance, and cry as they relate their sad beginnings to dominate public office. We should not leave our fate to those who rely on dole outs during the campaign season. It is about time to go out, register and exercise the right to vote.

Credible election results could perhaps entice more people with genuine concern for public service to offer themselves as candidates in future elections even if they don’t know how to make people cry with their sad stories, or laugh with their out of tune singing or jokes.

The Binay ruckus is all about politics, dirty politics at its best.

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