MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Is President Benigno Aquino III just forgetful?
Vice President Jejomar Binay refuted Aquino III’s statement that he kept his criticism of the Aquino administration a “secret” in the 5 years he was a member of the Cabinet.
Binay responded to Aquino’s remark that Binay had the obligation to share his ideas on how to improve the lives of Filipinos instead of keeping quiet in the Cabinet all this time.
The Vice President said that in several crises that hit the administration, he conveyed his feedback to Aquino but did so privately.
“Baka naman nakalimutan lang ng Pangulo na sa mga malalaking isyu, kagaya ng Zamboanga siege at Disbursement Acceleration Program o DAP, nag-usap kami at sinabi ko ang aking saloobin,” Binay said during a visit to Navotas, a bailiwick, on Friday, June 26.
(Maybe the President is forgetting that in big issues like the Zamboanga siege and the Disbursement Acceleration Program or DAP, we talked privately and I told him my thoughts.)
The Vice President was referring to the September 2013 crisis where members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) under the Nur Misuari faction took siege of Zamboanga City to protest the peace talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Stretching for 3 weeks, the siege killed over 20 people, and caused a humanitarian crisis.
Binay sought to highlight his role in the crisis, where he brokered a ceasefire with Misuari that soon collapsed, sparking criticism of the Vice President. A former governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), Misuari was a classmate of Binay in political science class at the University of the Philippines.
The Vice President said though that he could no longer do anything because the administration insisted on pursuing the urban battle with the MNLF fighters.
“Noong Zamboanga siege, nagawan ko noon ng paraan na magkaroon ng ceasefire. Kaya lang tuloy-tuloy pa rin ang labanan at talagang hindi na mababago ang kanilang desisyon, unang-una sa galit nila kay Nur Misuari.”
(In the Zamboanga siege, I found a way to have a ceasefire. But the fighting continued, and their decision could not be changed because first of their anger at Nur Misuari.)
Binay’s statement came 4 days after he resigned from the Aquino Cabinet as housing czar and presidential adviser on overseas Filipino workers (OFW) concerns.
In a scathing speech on Wednesday, he blasted the Aquino administration for its “insensitive and failed leadership,” and branded himself as the leader of the opposition.
Binay is running for president under the opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA).
‘DAP under a new name’
In his Friday statement, Binay again identified the administration’s spending measure, the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), as a blunder. The Supreme Court struck down parts of DAP in 2014, but Aquino defended it as a means to pump-prime the economy, and he openly criticized the court ruling.
“Nanindigan din ako na labag sa batas at sa Konstitusyon ang DAP. Nang ideklara itong ilegal ng Korte Suprema, ang sabi ko dapat itong sundin. Ngunit ito ay ipinaglaban pa rin ng administrasyon. At ngayon, nabunyag sa bayan na ginamit ang DAP sa mga proyektong hindi naman nakatulong sa mahirap,” said Binay, a lawyer.
(I also stood against the illegal and unconstitutional DAP. When the Supreme Court declared it illegal, I said we should abide by the ruling. But the administration fought for it. And now, it is revealed to the nation that DAP was used for projects that did not help the poor.)
Binay alluded to allegations his party mates first made that the DAP is still in place but in another form, and under a different name.
“‘Yon lang ang malungkot po dito, nawala na nga raw ang DAP pero ginawan naman ng ibang pangalan,” Binay said.
(That’s what is sad here. DAP is supposedly gone but they made a way to retain it but using a different name.)
DAP became controversial when Binay’s ally, detained Senator Jinggoy Estrada, claimed that senators who voted to impeach former Chief Justice Renato Corona got an additional P50 million ($1.11 million).
Budget Secretary Florencio Abad denied the money was a bribe, saying it was meant for projects to help address underspending in government. Critics also claimed that the biggest allocations from DAP were allotted to lawmakers allied with the administration.
Binay also responded to Aquino’s statement that he gave the Vice President Cabinet posts so he would not become a “spare tire.”
The Vice President expressed gratitude but maintained that he “ran out of patience,” and felt it was time to break away.
He again attacked the administration’s supposed failure to ensure that economic growth benefits the poor.
“Nagtagal ako ng limang taon dahil gusto kong makatulong sa mahirap. Pero may hangganan din ang pagtitiis lalo na’t nakikita ko na pagkalipas ng limang taon ay laganap pa rin ang kahirapan,” he said.
(I lasted for 5 years because I wanted to help the poor. But my patience has limits, especially when I saw that even after 5 years, poverty became widespread and worsened.)
He added: “Gayunpaman, thank you rin, Mr President, sa iyong mga sinabi. Uulitin ko po, thank you, Mr. President, sa iyong mga sinabi.”
(Still, thank you too, Mr President for what you said. I repeat: thank you, Mr President, for all that you said.)
Abad: Binay agencies got DAP funds
In a statement, Abad wondered aloud why Binay wants him jailed for the DAP when the Supreme Court had already clarified the matter in its February 2015 ruling. (READ: SC partially grants gov’t appeal on DAP ruling)
“The SC did not declare anyone guilty of any wrongdoing or graft, but in fact reiterated in a clearer manner the doctrine of operative fact, which presumes good faith in all the acts and decisions made in relation to DAP,” Abad said on Friday.
He added that he found Binay’s rants against the DAP as “hypocritical” when two housing agencies the Vice President chaired – the National Housing Authority and the Home Guaranty Corporation – received P11.45 billion in DAP funds on October 2011.
“He never raised any issue when the two agencies received and used those funds. Why was it OK then, and not OK now when he is out of government? When was he telling the truth?” Abad said.– Rappler.com