MANILA (UPDATE) – If you're backing out of a debate, then back out of the presidential race too.
This is the challenge of Senator Antonio Trillanes IV to Vice President Jejomar Binay after the latter backed out of their debate that was supposed to take place later this month.
Trillanes said Binay's decision to back out of the debate after first challenging the senator only shows that the vice president lacks character and is not trustworthy.
"For the sake of the country, sana umatras na siya at itigil na ang panloloko sa taumbayan, at kung magtuloy-tuloy siya dahil alam niya na may kikitain siya sa pagka-presidente, sana makita ng mga kababayan natin ang tunay na pagkatao niya," Trillanes told reporters.
Binay first challenged Trillanes to a debate after the senator accused him of various corruption allegations including ownership of a 350-hectare estate in Rosario, Batangas.
Trillanes then accepted the challenge; with both camps agreeing to a November 27 date for the event.
However, Binay announced his decision to back out of the debate during his birthday celebration at the Philippine Marines headquarters in Fort Bonifacio today.
The vice president turned 72 today.
Binay said he changed his mind after the senator tried to show himself as the underdog.
"Ang dahilan ko, mga kababayan, ay dahil marami na akong naririnig. Na siya ay ganito, ako ay mahusay, ako ay debater, ako ay abogado, e sobra na ang mga salitang ganyan, na kumpirmadong sinabi niya. E ayoko naman po yung aking pagkakakila niyo sa akin, mga kababayan, ay mapang-api, mapagsamantala. Na itong isang tao ito ay alam mo naman kawawa, tanga o whatever, so pinagsamantalahan ko so tama na yun."
For his part, Trillanes said he cannot believe that the vice president would blame him for the debate not pushing through.
"Even if I didn't speak at all, I will tell you they will come up with a reason not to come to the debate...They are taking us for a ride," he said.
"It is his loss. He is going to be crucified for this and he practically destroyed any credibility he has left," he said.
He also said reporters were merely stating a fact that Binay would have an advantage in the debate since the vice president is a lawyer while Trillanes is a soldier.
Trillanes pointed out that Binay even made demands to the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas about the debate, saying the vice president wanted to give both the opening and closing statements in the debate.
The senator said Binay may have backed out after realizing that he can never win against the "truth."
''Natatakot siya sa katotohanan dahil iyun lang ang hawak ko sa debateng ito. Mahirap tibagin iyon kahit gaano ka pa kagaling mag-argumento,'' he said.
2007 Peninsula siege
Trillanes also said the vice president has a history of reneging on a commitment.
The senator said Binay helped him plan the 2007 Manila Peninsula siege, but the vice-president, then mayor of Makati City, did not show up in the actual standoff.
In the standoff, Trillanes and fellow Magdalo mutineers, on trial for the 2003 Oakwood mutiny, walked out of the court and marched towards the Manila Peninsula.
Trillanes said Binay promised to back him and his fellow mutineers with people from Makati, including members of the urban poor, city hall employees, and even University of Makati City students.
However, no one among the Binay camp showed up that day, Trillanes said.
''Maraming sinasabi, pero nung nangyari na ang insidente, kung maalala niyo, kami lang po ang nandoon. Wala si VP Binay. Isinubo ang buong grupo dyan sa insidenteng yan, at maraming muntik namatay doon, at kung hindi dahil sa media maraming namatay,'' he said.
Trillanes said Binay only appeared when he and other standoff participants were already in detention in Camp Crame.
Trillanes is one of the senators actively attending the Senate Blue Ribbon sub-committee hearings on allegations of corruption against Binay and his family.
The Senate probe, which was initially intended to tackle the alleged overpricing of the Makati City Hall Building II, is now tackling other corruption allegations against the Binays.
The Binay camp has repeatedly snubbed the probe, saying it was not the proper forum to face the allegations.