MANILA, Philippines – A former ally of Vice President Jejomar Binay may soon turn against him, and serve as the prosecution’s witness in a graft case against his wife, former Makati Mayor Elenita Binay.
Government prosecutors from the Office of the Ombudsman informed the Sandiganbayan Fifth Division of their plans to present former Makati councilor Ernesto Aspillaga as a witness against Mrs Elenita Binay.
Aspillaga is among those facing charges over an alleged anomalous purchase of office furnishings worth P72.06 million for the Makati City Hall building in 2006.
Prosecutors allege that the cost and bidding process for the contract were riddled with irregularities.
According to the prosecutors, they had gotten wind of information that Aspillaga would be admitted to the Witness Protection Program soon. The former head of Makati’s General Services Department also said he was willing to testify against Binay and other defendants in the case.
The former city councilor had earlier told the Senate blue ribbon subcommittee probing allegations of corruption against Binay that during the Vice President and his wife’s stints as mayor, rigging bids was the norm.
“Considering the gravity of this case and given the recent admissions made under oath by a key player in the procurement scam, it would be in the paramount interest of justice to allow the prosecution to present additional evidence,” the prosecution said in a consolidated reply by acting prosecution bureau director Omar Sagadal and assistant special prosecutors Ferdinand Labog and Minerva Quintela.
But the prosecution’s move did not sit well with the defendants. Both Elenita Binay and another accused, Bernadette Aquino, said it was unfair to allow the prosecution to present additional evidence in the person of Aspillaga because it would extend the proceedings.
They also insisted Aspillaga’s statements before the Senate was not admissible in court following the principle of res inter alios acta.
The prosecution countered, however, that it is Aspillaga himself – and not just his earlier testimony before the Senate – that they intend to present as evidence. Besides, Aspillaga would be subject to a cross-examination by the defense and questions from the judges, the prosecution said.
Binay and his family have been accused of amassing ill-gotten wealth by fixing bids and accepting kickbacks in the city of Makati. The Vice President was mayor of the city for over two decades, except for a 3-year break when his wife became mayor. Their son, Jejomar Erwin Binay Jr, is the incumbent mayor.
Binay’s daughter, Abigail Binay, is a Makati representative, while his eldest daughter, Nancy, is a senator.
The Binays have denied the allegations against them. – Bea Cupin/Rappler.com