POSTSCRIPT / June 11, 2015 / Thursday


Opinion Columnist

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Why can’t Binay cut clean from Aquino?

IT IS intriguing that Vice President Jojo Binay, declared presidential bet of the opposition, is still unable to cut clean from his friend President Noynoy Aquino. Is he clinging to the possibility that Noynoy may yet choose him as an acceptable successor?

As late as yesterday, Binay had only kind words for Mr. Aquino, even professing his intention to continue the latter’s “tuwid na daan” (straight path) anti-corruption campaign when — not “if” — he wins the presidency in 2016.

That might sound weird to people bombarded daily with talk of Binay’s alleged corruption and amassing of illegal wealth as disclosed in a Senate inquiry serving an endless political menu meant to ruin the former Makati city mayor’s run for the presidency.

Napakaganda niyan!” (That’s a super good campaign!), Binay said referring to the “tuwid na daan” as he parried questions on corruption in a media forum hosted yesterday by Philippine STAR associate editor Ichu Villanueva.

Binay promised to go after corrupt officials when he takes over the presidency, but took pains to say that Mr. Aquino would not be among them.

Aalisin ko ang mga sige-pa-rin sa graft and corruption ngayon, pero hindi naman si Pangulo kasama diyan. (I’ll weed out all those who insist on their corrupt ways, but the President is not among them).

Such unsolicited fulsome remarks feed speculation that Binay has assured the President a modicum of courtesy and protection when he loses his immunity from suit after leaving the Palace by the Pasig on June 30, 2016.

In the same way that Binay does not distance himself from his friend the President, the same is true with the latter, who has not dropped him from the official family although the Vice President’s Cabinet posts involving housing and overseas Filipino workers are not ex officio.

• Roxas emerging as LP presidential bet

EVERYTHING considered, my gut feel is that DILG Secretary Mar Roxas is on his way to being chosen as the Liberal Party standard bearer despite his poor showing in the surveys.

Notwithstanding his lackluster projection, Roxas as official party candidate will be buoyed by the formidable machine and money of the administration. This is not to mention the added advantage of the Hocus-PCOS magic that generated many incredible winners in the 2010 and 2013 elections.

There is a lingering feeling that Mr. Aquino is looking for a successor who could be relied upon to cover his back after he leaves the presidency.

Standing out in this quest is Jojo Binay – a tested ally and a creation of then President Cory Aquino who launched his political career in 1986 as officer-in-charge of Makati.

Among Mar Roxas, Jojo Binay, Grace Poe and Bongbong Marcos, I think Noynoy can rely on Binay for best protection. (Rody Duterte is not being mentioned here because the nation is looking for a president and not a commando squad leader.)

Binay, however, is hobbled by perceptions of corruption. He has been accused of conspiring with several others to have plundered some P1.38 billion in public funds meant for the Makati City Hall II parking building, rigged bids for projects and owned an undeclared estate in Batangas.

The guilt or innocence of the accused is determined by a court of law, not by politicians sitting in a Senate committee or by the miron in the gallery. Until the Sandiganbayan convicts Binay, he is presumed to be innocent.

• BI P400-M bribery case headed for whitewash?

IS THE congressional inquiry into alleged P400-million bribery and corruption at the Bureau of Immigration involving Chinese gambling lord Wang Bo headed for a whitewash or muddling to protect the crooks?

The House investigation, led by Pampanga Rep. Oscar Rodriguez of the committee on good government and public accountability, began Tuesday and will resume next Tuesday. Meanwhile, Wang is kept in the BI holding facility in Bicutan.

Suspected of large-scale illegal gambling and money laundering, Wang was arrested by immigration authorities for using a revoked passport and for being the object of a live warrant of arrest issued by Chinese authorities.

Reports had it that Wang paid off Associate Commissioners Gilbert Repizo Jr and Abdullah Mangontara to reverse a decision by the BI board to have him deported. Reports added that P100 million was given to several BI officials and P300 million to some congressmen – hence the House inquiry.

Immigration Chief Commissioner Siegfred Mison as well as commissioners Repizo and Mangontara, and BI legal division chief Cris Villalobos denied receiving bribes.

Mison reiterated that he was actually the one who strongly opposed the lifting of the deportation order against Wang. This he did in the final resolution of the board.

Like all suspects, however, everybody linked to the case are presumed innocent at this point, especially without direct evidence being presented against them.

This, despite investigators having noted that between May 18 and May 21, Wang’s lawyer Dennis Manalo reportedly visited the office of Repizo who happened to be the ponente of the controversial May 21 resolution recommending the lifting of the March 5 deportation order.

Asked by Iloilo Rep. Jerry Trenas Jr. why Repizo seemed to be lawyering for a fugitive, the commissioner was unable to explain himself fully. The commissioner has to put to rest the question over why he reportedly met with the Wang’s lawyer before the resolution was issued.

Viewed in light of RA 6713 establishing a code of conduct and ethical standards for public officials and employees, the ponente meeting privately with the lawyer of one party may have been indiscreet, to say the least.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of June 11, 2015)

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