MANILA, Philippines – Vice President Jejomar Binay described as “mudslinging” and a “calculated attempt” the leak of a 2011 letter he sent to President Aquino about former military comptroller retired Maj Gen Carlos Garcia.
In a statement, the Office of the Vice President further questioned the political motives behind the publication of the letter in an exclusive story written by Rappler. (Read: VP Binay lobbied for General Garcia)
Binay’s spokesperson, Joey Salgado, said the leak of Binay’s private and confidential memo was meant to destroy “the good personal and working relationship” of Binay and Aquino.
“Are there personalities and groups so insecure of the Vice President’s long standing relationship with the President that they would disclose confidential government documents to sabotage this relationship?”
In a letter dated January 3, 2011, which Binay confirmed he indeed sent to the President, he urged Aquino to consider the plea bargain deal between the Ombudsman and Garcia. Binay said there was insufficient evidence to convict Garcia of plunder.
The letter, which reached Rappler this April, finally exposed and confirmed what sectors privy to the Garcia case have known since last year: that Binay indeed tried to convince the President to approve the questionable plea bargain deal between then Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez and Garcia.
The deal, which was secretly hammered out in December 2010 by Gutierrez’s prosecutors, led to the withdrawal of the non-bailable, P303-M plunder suit against Garcia. The suit was, up to that point, the biggest corruption case in Philippine military history, causing demoralization — and reorganization — in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
What Garcia surrendered in the plea bargain — properties amounting to P135-M — were already covered, and garnished, in two other forfeiture cases against him in the Sandiganbayan.
The plea bargain followed an exposé in January 2011 of retired Lt Col George Rabusa, who was Garcia’s budget officer, on cash gifts to former AFP chiefs.
One former chief who was dragged into the scandal and who was also a known patron of Garcia was retired Gen Angelo Reyes. He killed himself at the height of the Senate hearings on the controversy.
Another casualty was Gutierrez, who was impeached by the House of Representatives and was forced to resign before the Senate could even try her.
Despite the plea bargain, Garcia was put back in jail based on charges previously filed against him in a military court.
All throughout the controversy, Binay kept his silence.
‘They could care less about rules’
The Binay camp said that in writing the letter, Binay acted in good faith.
Salgado also said that there are penalties for the disclosure of confidential documents.
“But it seems that those who leaked the Vice President’s memo could care less. They would [flout] the rules to push their selfish political agenda. And that is what worries the Vice President.”
Salgado said Binay is more concerned about the leak and the motives behind it “more than Rappler’s tabloidish approach to the story.”
In an earlier statement released on Wednesday, April 25, Salgado questioned the timing of the leak, saying it occurred “when there are political realignments.” The story was published earlier that day.
Binay has formed the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) coalition for the 2013 polls. It is an alliance between his Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) and the Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP) of former President Joseph Estrada.
The Vice President has also announced his intention to run for president in 2016.
Trial lawyer’s instincts
In the statement, Salgado stressed that Binay personally preferred to charge Garcia with plunder.
“But having been a trial lawyer for many years, and having been appraised of the evidence at hand, his instincts told him otherwise. And that is what the Vice President conveyed to the President.”
Salgado said that Binay pointed out that if the only evidence in the plunder charge was the supposed admission of Garcia’s wife that he received money and other perks from contractors and suppliers, this might not stand in court.
Salgado said the letter was an honest effort of Binay to help the government secure a conviction.
What is fair game?
Salgado also reiterated the media statements Binay made, expressing concern that confidential documents on national security, foreign relations and the economy might also be leaked.
The spokesperson asked whether the personalities and groups behind the leak of the memo would also compromise national security just to destroy Binay’s reputation and relations with Aquino.
“We now ask, are the Vice President’s other memos to the President which are private and confidential now fair game for those who intend to put the Vice President in [a] bad light?”
Malacañang earlier distanced itself from the leak of the letter, saying it would leave it to Binay to comment on the memo. – Rappler.com