POSTSCRIPT / November 13, 2014 / Thursday


Opinion Columnist

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Why can’t Noy, Jojo cut clean politically?

BEST FRIENDS FOREVER?: Who between Vice President Jojo Binay and Secretary Mar Roxas, if elected president in 2016, could President Noynoy Aquino find more “ready and willing” to protect him if he is criminally prosecuted after he steps down?

The question is pertinent, because President Aquino still does not openly endorse Roxas for the presidency while appearing reluctant to junk Binay, a family friend, despite their opposing parties’ moving on a collision course on their way to the 2016 elections.

The President is the titular head of the administration Liberal Party while the Vice President is the declared presidential aspirant of the opposition United Nationalist Alliance. But they still find it difficult cutting clean. Why?

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PALACE MEETING: Feeling the hurt of the demolition job being carried out on him by LP senators and a parallel investigation by the justice department, Binay sought a meeting with Aquino last Oct. 14 to find out, I presume, if his friend in the Palace could do something to ease the pressure.

Emerging from their three-hour meeting, Binay told inquiring newsmen that they merely reminisced about old times, dating back to those glory Cory days when he was a loyal soldier of the post-EDSA Aquino administration.

What else could he have said? He could not have said, for instance, that they agreed that they could not keep meeting by the Pasig River with neighbors, especially the presumed LP presidential bet Mar Roxas, watching.

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BINAY REQUEST: But Senate President Franklin Drilon, third in line after the Vice President in the order of succession should the presidency be vacated, had no qualms passing on hearsay regarding the favor that the VP asked the President.

Drilon told the media last Monday that the President relayed to him the VP’s request that the Senate inquiry into Binay’s alleged amassing of illegal wealth be stopped. There was just one answer to that: that only the committee conducting the inquiry could stop it.

A former senator himself, the President could not have suggested to Drilon that the open-ended inquiry had dragged on too long and was meandering to other issues, giving the impression that LP partisans were on a fishing expedition.

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PIECEMEAL EVIDENCE: Not a few eyebrows were raised when President Aquino told the press in Beijing days ago that the Senate committee may want to now present all the evidence against Binay instead of piecemeal or “in drips and drops.”

Talking to the press over coffee at the end of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in China, he asked: “Can we not have the whole list (of evidence)? Is the proof really there? Is there substantial proof?”

The President clarified he did not mean to hold back the senators, but would like to think that they were responsible enough to continue performing their other lawmaking duties.

All evidence must be presented, he said, so that those who must be charged should be charged and those who must be absolved should be absolved so “we can all focus and go back to our other work.”

* * *

PRESUMED INNOCENT: The President is not only keeping Binay in his official family. In the last Cabinet meeting, he gave the Vice President, his housing adviser, assignments on dwellings in the Visayas areas devastated one year ago this month by super-typhoon Yolanda.

Obviously unprepared to cut off Binay despite the pile of corruption charges being hurled against him by LP partisans, the President said:

“I think the Vice President, without taking any side, is entitled to the presumption of innocence until proven guilty which is a fundamental right found in Article 3 of the Constitution.” (In the hearing, however, the tenor of the senators is that Binay is guilty until he can prove his innocence.)

He noted that it was easy to make accusations but also difficult when there was no proof to those accusations, but that “at the end of the day there will be evidence, one way or the other, and then ensure that all of the processes are carried out.”

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DRILON OPTION: Sooner or later, President Aquino will have to make clear his political and personal inclination. He cannot assume a protective posture in relation to Binay, especially when the LP reaches the advanced stages of choosing a standard bearer.

Despite his inability to project a winning form, Roxas could still be a viable choice especially if picked as official candidate. Even without him, the party could hustle up an alternative before the electorate turns irretrievably oppositionist.

An option is Drilon, if he is not seriously wounded politically. His allies in the Senate and his handlers must blunt the negative effects of similar charges of plunder and overpricing in the construction of his Iloilo Convention Center project.

* * *

SENATE ON TRIAL: The ICC is partly funded from unconstitutional DAP (Disbursement Acceleration Program) funds and erected by the same construction firm that built the allegedly overpriced Makati parking building for which Binay is being crucified.

Not only Drilon, but also the Senate as an institution, is put to the test with the filing of plunder charges in connection with the Iloilo center.

The Drilon Senate is under pressure to display the same zeal in digging up the dirt under the project, going wherever the evidence will lead it.

With their inquisition of the Vice President as template, the Senate cannot afford to fall short of public expectation. Doing less would only confirm suspicion that the Binay inquiry was just a demolition job to strike him out as a serious contender for the presidency in 2016.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of November 13, 2014)

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