MANILA, Philippines - Vice-President Jejomar Binay on Thursday belied reports that he is protecting Bar blast suspect Anthony Nepomuceno, who happens to be Binay's frat brother in the Alpha Phi Omega fraternity.
The Vice-President said his role was limited to bringing the suspect to the National Bureau of Investigation after he got a call Tuesday night from Justice Secretary Leila de Lima asking for his help to locate Nepomuceno.
Binay said he immediately called the members of APO's Council of Elders and asked them to locate Nepomuceno. He added that he never met Nepomuceno and he was only brought to him Wednesday a few hours before they brought him to the NBI.
Binay also clarified that he never said that the suspect was innocent as implied by some members of the media.
"Gusto ko lang maging diretso yun pangyayari. Wala ho akong kinikilingan sa pangyayari. Sinasabi sa isang diyaryo na sinasabi ko raw na he is innocent. Sa ingat ko ba namang ito...Ang sinabi ko, 'According to him, he is innocent,'" he said.
Binay also noted that the APO Council of Elders were the ones who convinced Nepomuceno to come out and assured him that his rights under the law would be protected.
"Nililiwanag ko lang. Wag ho kayong bintang ng bintang. Ito ay ginawa ko sa kagustuhan kong tumulong. Ano protekta? Bakit ko poprotektahan e wala namang warrant? Gusto ko lang lumabas ang katotohanan at ipakita na ang fraternity namin di kami nagkakanlong ng mga nagkakasala. Ito kung tutuusin bintang pa lang," he said.
Binay refused to comment on reports that evidence against the suspect is strong as anything he says can be misinterpreted again.
Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte, meanwhile, said Binay’s statement is his personal opinion and will not affect the investigation of the case.
“The Vice-President made that statement after he had a personal talk with suspect. Of course we respect (his) opinion and allow me to stress at end of the day what will determine liability or non-liability will be the appreciation of evidence presented and assessment of prosecutors (of) whether or not there’s probable cause," she told Palace reporters.
Valte said due process will be observed, with the suspect’s rights to be respected as he requested. “Of course we respect the Vice-President’s opinion. At the end of the day, there’s legal process to be followed. We understand the position of Vice-President Binay because he was able to talk to Mr. Nepomuceno and that’s probably the basis for his opinion."
Valte dispelled notions of a whitewash in the investigation, adding that the vice-president is not meddling in the probe.
"As far as we’ve seen he’s not meddling. We thank him for the successful intervention in yesterday’s affair. From what I understand, his battery of lawyers are also his frat brothers. That can be interpreted as wielding influence already in the sense they are representing him. But prosecutors know how to do their jobs," she said. With a report from RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News