MANILA, Philippines - President Aquino offered help to embattled Vice President Jejomar Binay during their meeting in Malacañang last week, a spokesperson for Binay said yesterday.
Cavite Gov. Jonvic Remulla, Binay’s spokesperson for political concerns, said Aquino asked the Vice President about his family and how he could help him.
“Our understanding is that in the course of the conversation, the President asked about his family and VP replied the family is hurting from all the lies and baseless accusations, especially his wife,” Remulla said in a text message to media.
“At this point the President asked how he can help or ‘Paano ako makakatulong?’ It was in the context that the Senate was mentioned in the conversation,” Remulla said.
Remulla said Binay thanked the President for his concern.
“The Vice President respects the private nature of their conversation. It was after all a meeting between friends,” he added.
President Aquino yesterday said he rejected a request from Binay for him to intercede and persuade his allies in the Senate to go slow on their investigation on his alleged ill-gotten wealth.
“Sabi ko, kako, pakitanong mo na lang sa anak mo: Iyung Senado (I said ask your daughter Sen. Nancy, because the Senate) is known for being 24 independent republics,” he recounted to journalists in a chance interview in Palo, Leyte.
Aquino led yesterday’s commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Leyte Gulf Landing in Tacloban City.
“So, at the end of the day, I told him the truth will come out; and between the two of us, you will know what the truth is. So, you will know what will be coming out,” the President said.
Aquino recalled that their meeting in Bahay Pangarap, the President’s official residence, lasted more than two hours. He also confirmed to reporters that Binay indeed appealed to him to stop the Department of Justice, led by Secretary Leila de Lima, from investigating the alleged anomalies during his term as mayor of Makati City.
“Well, if I remember right we did talk about it. At the end of the day, this is the ombudsman’s task. Whatever DOJ does would be only in support of the ombudsman’s efforts,” Aquino related.
The DOJ, in some specific instances, is deputized by the ombudsman to investigate alleged infractions involving public officials.
The ombudsman has primary jurisdiction, Aquino pointed out to Binay.
The Office of the Ombudsman is not part of the executive department, being an independent, constitutional body.
The Chief Executive likewise related that, during the course of the meeting, both of them reached the point of “reminiscing about the olden times.”
“The gist of it was that he may have to bring up certain issues, but he assured me that the support he has committed has not changed until the last day of my mandate,” Aquino said, referring to June 30, 2016.
“On my part I told him that ‘I can assure you na you will have all your rights and due processes. We will not countenance anybody manufacturing evidence against you.’ We will try to keep all the processes on a very professional level,” Aquino said.
The President, however, did not specifically answer the query on whether his relationship with Binay – a long-time family friend and political ally – had been strained following reports of the former Makati mayor’s ill-gotten wealth.
“I repeat, his assignment here at housing is ferreting out the wrongdoing in the past to ascribe culpability,” Aquino replied, probably referring to the housing scandal involving now detained Globe Asiatique developer Delfin Lee.
“Our commitment to housing, for instance, is 50,000 plus those for our uniformed services, which were met. Everytime there’s a calamity, NHA (National Housing Authority) is there to help,” he added.
Binay also heads the NHA.
“So, his assignments he has done. After doing his assignments, should I be castigating him? I don’t think that’s proper,” Aquino said.
SB to Binay: Face Senate
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. urged Binay to face the Senate inquiry.
He said Binay has “many adherents in the Senate” not just his daughter Sen. Nancy Binay.
“I’m for advising him to go ahead and appear. They will respect him because he’s Vice President,” Belmonte told reporters. “He has people for him within the Senate.”
He said Binay and others implicated in various corruption allegations “should not just wash their hands of it,” adding that “a great number of people aren’t happy with him not appearing.”
Belmonte also opposed calls to impeach Binay, saying the House of Representatives has better things to do.
Meanwhile, the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), the second biggest political party in the House, reiterated its backing for Binay and said efforts to impeach him are divisive and a costly political exercise.
“The NPC, which remains one of the biggest political parties in the country, completely disagrees and will not support the calls of the critics of VP Binay to initiate an impeachment move against him,” said Mark Llandro Mendoza, NPC secretary general.
“The Aquino administration only has a little over two years left in office and we hope that its allies in Congress should instead focus on the tasks at hand and not dabble too much on politics,” he said.
Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV said that the country couldn’t afford to have a corrupt president, which he said would definitely bring the country down.
Ever since the allegations of massive corruption against Binay and his family came out, the Vice President’s satisfaction ratings have gone down, recent surveys have shown.
“You have seen that this family enjoys extravagance. How could you possibly save up that amount? P1.2 billion for a hacienda that came from ill-gotten wealth. If he becomes president then the entire Philippines could end up being Hacienda Binay,” Trillanes added.
The Senate would resume its investigation into the Makati parking building tomorrow and Trillanes said that he would present more new evidence to prove that the Vice President engaged in corrupt activities.
Sen. JV Ejercito, an ally of the Vice President in the United Nationalist Alliance, said that he understood the sentiments of Binay but urged him to attend the hearings and answer all the allegations directly.
“I think that it would be good for him to answer head on if there is a chance just to put this to rest,” he added.
Sen. Grace Poe also encouraged the Vice President to take the opportunity to attend the hearings.
“It’s basically a platform for him. People will be able to hear him. I don’t think it would be difficult for him to defend himself if he is telling the truth,” she said. – With Delon Porcalla, Paolo Romero, Marvin Sy
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