MANILA (2nd UPDATE) - Vice President Jejomar Binay has backed out of a debate with Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV scheduled on November 27.
Binay, who is celebrating his 72nd birthday today, said he changed his mind because the senator is trying to portray himself as the underdog in the November 27 event.
He said his decision to back out of the debate is final.
"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."
The vice president confirmed that he was the one who challenged Trillanes to a debate in the first place.
"Ako ang naghamon at tinanggap naman niya pero sa pananalita niya... marami siyang salita, ito ang mga developments kaya tama na."
For his part, Trillanes said the vice president's decision only proves Binay cannot keep his word.
"Hindi siya mapagkakatiwalaan. Wala siyang isang salita," he told radio DZMM.
He said it is not the first time that Binay has issued fighting words only to back down when a person calls his bluff.
He said that during the 2007 Manila Peninsula standoff, Binay promised to back members of the Magdalo group against then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo only for him to back out.
Binay was the first to challenge Trillanes to a debate after the latter accused the vice president of having unexplained wealth, including a sprawling estate in Rosario, Batangas.
Several allies have opposed Binay's decision to engage Trillanes in a debate including former president Joseph Estrada, United Nationalist Alliance interim president Toby Tiangco and even Binay's daughter, Nancy.
SAYANG LANG - KBP
For his part, Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas president Herman Basbaño said he is "a little disappointed" by the cancellation of the debate but said he will respect Binay's decision.
"Wala kaming magagawa diyan. We just have to respect that," he said.
He added: "There is a little disappointment but we have to respect their position."
He said that before the cancellation, both camps showed enthusiasm in conducting the debate.
He said Binay sent more representatives to the KBP meetings to prepare for the debate while Trillanes only sent one lawyer.
Basbaño admitted that he sees the cancelled debate as a missed opportunity. He added that the KBP has already spent funds to prepare for the debate including visits to the potential debate site.
"Sayang lang," he said.
PALACE RESPECTS VP'S DECISION
Malacañang, meanwhile, said it respects the decision of Binay not to attend the planned debate with Trillanes, an event that the Palace would have monitored and watched.
"Normally, yes, we do monitor current news events, press briefings, conferences, events that are of interest to the administration," deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said.
"We respect the Vice President's position not to push through with the debate with Senator Trillanes. Katulad ng laging sinasabi ng Pangulong Aquino, mas nakakatanda po ang bise presidente sa kanya at hindi naman po kami pwedeng magbigay ng advice nang hindi po sa amin hinihingi," said Valte. -- With a report from Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News