MANILA, Philippines – What do many of the lawmakers tagged in the pork barrel scam have in common? For Vice President Jejomar Binay, they are not allied with the administration.
In an interview on Wednesday night, July 17, Binay said he made the observation upon seeing the news reports listing the lawmakers who allegedly gave a syndicate access to their pork barrel to fund ghost projects in exchange for hefty kickbacks.
Binay was asked about statements from his allies in the opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) that the reports linking them to the scam are politically motivated.
“’Di ko lang malaman kasi bakit naman ‘yung [marami doon] – buti kung isa o dalawa lang, eh [marami] – hindi nila kakampi. Tingnan natin, iniimbestigahan naman eh.”
(What I cannot figure out is why many of them – good if it’s just one or two, but it’s many – are not their allies. Let’s see. This is the subject of an investigation.)
Binay said the probe will show if the “innuendos” about the scam are believable.
The Vice President’s fellow UNA leader Sen Juan Ponce Enrile, and other UNA partymates Sen Jinggoy Estrada and Sen Gregorio Honasan II were among those named in the Philippine Daily Inquirer reports on the scam.
Honasan said the reports were malicious, politically motivated, and linked to the midterm polls. The other senators named in the report, Sen Bong Revilla and Sen Bongbong Marcos, suspected the scam was a demolition job in the run-up to the 2016 election.
Quoting Enrile, Binay said the issue was first raised during the campaign period in April.
Binay’s daughter, Sen Nancy Binay, shared her father’s observation.
“When I first saw the pictures [on the frontpage], I said these are our allies who are implicated,” Binay told reporters.
Sen Binay cited former Agusan del Sur Rep Ompong Plaza of UNA, a senatorial bet under the 2010 slate of her father and former President Joseph Estrada.
“His term was back in 2006 so it’s been, what, 7 years? And if the whistleblower didn’t come out, this would not have been discussed. So that’s what’s surprising. Why all of a sudden is his name dragged into this?”
VP’s pork goes to senior citizens’ centers
Asked about proposals to abolish the pork barrel in the wake of the scam, Vice President Binay said he was able to use his own Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) for legitimate purposes.
“What was given to me was all accounted for up to the last centavo. And if there’s anything we’re proud to say, for successive years, all the time I’ve been vice president, we were outstanding,” Binay said.
“Senator Enrile initiated that my office be given pork barrel, and the money, I used that to build senior citizens’ centers. That’s (pork barrel) P200 million yearly,” he added.
Binay said Enrile made the effort because the budget of the Office of the Vice President is only P187 million, which mostly goes to medical assistance and scholarship programs.
“Akala ko Office of the Vice President, wow! Nung malaman ko P187 million, mas mataas pa ang budget ng barangay ko sa Makati eh,” the former Makati mayor said in jest.
(I thought, wow this is the Office of the Vice President! When I found out the budget was only P187 million, I thought the budget of my barangay in Makati is bigger.)
Sen Binay said she does not support the abolition of the PDAF and instead backs the proposal of Sen Franklin Drilon to limit its use to medical and education services.
“If spent properly and with documentation, PDAF helps many people. In fact now, many are asking me for medical assistance. That’s where my PDAF will go. I want to concentrate on children’s hospitals, more funding for that,” she said.
Sen Binay also agreed with Enrile in calling on the Commission on Audit to release its full report on the use of the pork barrel.
All about 2016?
While the Vice President said the pork barrel scam is still subject to investigation, he reiterated that a supposed demolition job against him in relation to the 2016 presidential election has already begun. Binay has long declared his presidential ambitions.
He again said there are supposed efforts to criticize him, starting with a smear campaign against his son, Makati Mayor Junjun Binay.
Asked who was behind this, the Vice President said, “Siguro naman hindi na $64,000 question yun. Alam mo kung saan manggagaling. Your answer is as good as mine.” (I think that’s not a $64,000 question. You know where it is coming from.)
Pressed if his potential 2016 rivals were orchestrating the campaign, Binay said, “That’s possible because why will they attack me? There is a reason and the reason, the origin, is my candidacy.”
“’Di ba may kasabihan na ‘pag hitik sa bunga, iyon ang binabato?” (Isn’t there a saying that if the tree has lots of fruits, that’s what they target?) – Rappler.com