MANILA, Philippines – If election watchdogs ask candidates to sign covenants against violence or cheating, why can’t presidential aspirants have an anti-corruption pledge?
This is the challenge Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano issued to Vice President Jejomar Binay and other presidential aspirants to show that they are “one in fighting corruption.”
In a press briefing on Thursday, March 13, Cayetano said the pledge should include a commitment to expel party members who refuse to respond to corruption charges.
“Bakit ‘di tayo p’wedeng magkaroon ng pirmahan ngayon? Lahat ng partido, na kahit partido natin, kapagka-nagkaroon ng anomalya, pipilitin nating sumagot sila. ‘Pag di sumagot o ‘di katanggap-tanggap ang sagot nila, aalisin natin sa partido,” Cayetano said.
(Why can’t we sign that pledge now? All parties, even our own party, we agree that when there’s an anomaly, we will force our members to respond. If they don’t or their answer is unacceptable, we will expel them from the party.)
Cayetano said that in the United States, the House of Representatives’ ethics committee takes it upon itself to expel lawmakers accused of corruption, while beleaguered presidents do not wait to be impeached but immediately resign.
“Pero sa atin sa Pilipinas, huling-huli mo na, guilting-guilty na, pagtatakpan pa ng mga kasama. Ang last defense ng pulitiko pagka-huling-huli na, eleksiyon. ‘Pag eleksiyon at nanalo kakampi mo, absuwelto ka. ‘Yun ang gusto kong alisin,” he said.
(But here in the Philippines, it’s already so obvious they are guilty but their party mates cover up for them. Politicians’ last line of defense when caught is elections. When it’s elections and your ally wins, you are acquitted. That’s what I want to remove.)
Cayetano’s remarks were his latest criticism of Binay, whose allies senators Jinggoy Estrada and Juan Ponce Enrile are implicated in the multi-billion-peso pork barrel scam. The majority leader hit Binay for his statements that Cayetano said “belittled” the justice department’s case against the accused senators.
Cayetano responded to Binay’s statement that he was unfazed by the senator’s presidential bid.
“First of all, I am not threatening him. I don’t expect him to be afraid, but 100%, he is afraid of my questions. My question is not the question of Alan Cayetano but the question of Juan dela Cruz. Is it bad for people to ask: ‘Mr Vice President, if you become president, will you send your allies to jail?’”
Cayetano said Binay always dodges heavy issues like the impeachment of former Chief Justice Renato Corona and former Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, and even the Philippines’ territorial row with China.
“The questions I’m asking are not just about 2016. It’s about public policy, the whistleblowers, what kind of government we want. Instead of taking it personally and saying I am just making noise, just answer the question. If you think the question is worthless, then say so. Tell people that the question that you agree to have a running mate who is implicated in the scam is worthless.”
Cayetano was referring to Binay’s statement that Estrada is among the options he is considering as vice presidential candidate. The Vice President has said speculation that his allies will be acquitted if he becomes president is “far-fetched.”
Estrada, Enrile, and Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr face a plunder complaint for allegedly funneling their pork barrel funds to fake non-governmental organizations in exchange for kickbacks.
Binay announced his presidential bid while Cayetano said he is still seeing if 2016 is the “right time” to run for president.
On Twitter, netizens and Binay’s ally and United Nationalist Alliance secretary-general Navotas Representative Tobias “Toby” Tiangco responded to Cayetano:
@ayeemacaraig So will he expel manny villar bec he refused to answer about road diversion scam last election time?— Pilita Flores (@FloresPilita) March 13, 2014
@ayeemacaraig All Cayetano has to do is to read the August 14,2013 COA special audit report, all the names are there— Toby Tiangco (@TobyTiangco) March 13, 2014
@ayeemacaraig Wala daw pera si Cayetano? Magkano ba ang monthly rental niya office at War room niya sa Nickel Asia Bldg sa the Fort?— Toby Tiangco (@TobyTiangco) March 13, 2014
@ayeemacaraig But in his case, it talks like a duck, walks like a duck, …..but its a chicken— Toby Tiangco (@TobyTiangco) March 13, 2014
‘Jinggoy, Bong also have inconsistencies’
The majority leader said that while Estrada criticized the contradictions in the testimony of potential state witnesses Dennis Cunanan and Ruby Tuason, he and Revilla are also guilty of inconsistencies.
“Senator Jinggoy said Ms Tuason is just a social secretary of his father and brings food at the Senate. Now he is saying she was a contractor of the Malampaya [fund scam] so he himself has an inconsistency. He said we should file a case against Cunanan for accepting kickbacks. So if we will file a case against Cunanan but using the testimony of Benhur Luy, then he is saying Benhur is telling the truth.”
Cayetano insisted that Estrada and his co-accused should respond to the charges in public because they are public officials. He added that the respondents only made general denials even when faced with specific allegations.
“If you hold government funds, you should be ready to explain to the people anytime because this is not their (officials’) personal money,” he said.
Besides his proposal for special criminal courts and special courts for plunder, Cayetano suggested that the preliminary investigation into the pork barrel scam should be televised.
“It’s so that people need not go to the Senate and watch the proceedings. Even in the OJ Simpson case in the US, the court opened it to the media,” he added.
‘2016 team separate from NP’
Cayetano also discussed his plans for 2016, admitting that his political team is separate from his Nacionalista Party (NP). He is the NP secretary-general.
Asked if he will leave NP if not chosen to be its standard bearer, he said, “As long as the process is fair, all we want is a fair process. What’s important is to also have your own team to be with people who worked hard for you and you were together with. We’ve been through a lot [in NP]. The party is 100 years old and we’ve been together for 10 years since 2004, so I hope we won’t reach the point of parting ways.”
Cayetano admitted that this early, he is already making an “analysis” of his possible senatorial slate.
“It’s just an analysis how many are incumbent senators, how many retired and want to come back, potential senators. It’s a name of 20 to 30 people, including all potential candidates from all parties.”
He added that Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III’s Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) is a “prize catch” to have after Binay left the group to form his own party.
Cayetano said it is too early for politicking but not for scrutinizing candidates and parties. “Part of preparing is to be open-minded and build coalitions.” – Rappler.com