Stop DOJ probe of Binay? 'We talked about it' – Aquino

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – President Benigno Aquino III confirmed reports that Vice President Jejomar Binay talked to him about the probe that the Department of Justice (DOJ) initiated into alleged anomalous contracts in Makati and undeclared wealth involving the Vice President.

Asked whether reports are true that the Binay asked Aquino to stop the DOJ investigation, Aquino said he recalls it was taken up in their October 14 meeting, where they also reminisced "about the olden times."

Well, kung tama ang tanda ko parang napag-usapan namin. At the end of the day, ang talagang may tasking Ombudsman. Kung may gagawin ang DOJ, ‘di ba, in support lang of the Ombudsman’s efforts. Pero ang talagang may karapatan at talagang may tungkulin Ombudsman, which is not part of the Executive,” the President told reporters on Monday, October 20, at the sidelines of the 70th Leyte landing anniversary.

(If I remember correctly, we talked about it. At the end of the day, it is the Ombudsman with that task [of investigating]. If the DOJ does anything, it's in support of the Ombudsman’s efforts. But the one that has jurisdiction is really the Ombudsman, which is not part of the Executive).

“So 'yon lang ang inulit ko sa kanya. Sabi ko, Ombudsman. Kung ita-task ang NBI (National Bureau of Investigation) or the DOJ to assist, then I think – there is no request – the DOJ [will have] to agree, to decide, 'di ba.”

(So that’s what I told him. I said, it's the Ombudsman's jurisdiction. If it will task the NBI or the DOJ to assist – there is no request so far – then I think the DOJ has to agree, to decide, right?)

Aquino's admission contradicts statements by the Binay camp that discussions on the probe "didn't happen." The Vice President himself said all they talked about were the "good old times."

Aquino was referring to a meeting the two had early last week, which Aquino said lasted a little over two hours and went past midnight. The meeting came the same evening Binay delivered a speech wherein he hit the Aquino administration for recent decisions, and accused allies of the President of mounting a so-called demolition job against him.

Senate probe intervention?

Sources close to the President said Binay’s camp requested for a meeting with Aquino shortly after.

At the meeting, Aquino confirmed they “talked about a lot of things from current issues he is facing to reminiscing about the olden times.”

“At the very end of it, he said perhaps he needs to respond or address certain issues. But he assured me that his support, as he has committed, has not changed until the last day of my mandate,” the President said.

He said he also assured Binay that he will “have all your rights and due processes,” and told him, “we will not countenance anybody manufacturing evidence against you.”

Aquino said Binay also asked him if he talks to his allies in the Senate, to which the President responded, “I think it's best for you to ask them if the Senate is known for being 24 independent republics.”

At the end of their conversation, Aquino said he told Binay “the truth will come out and, between the two of us, you will know what the truth is so, you will know what will be coming out.”

The same Malacañang sources told Rappler that Binay asked Aquino to stop the Senate probe against him. They also said Aquino was convinced after the meeting that Binay is not the right person to succeed him in 2016. Aquino has yet to pick a successor, but Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II is the presumed standard bearer of the ruling Liberal Party.

But in a statement released also on Monday, shortly after Aquino's admission Binay's spokesperson, Cavite governor Jonvic Remulla, said the only reason the Senate was mentioned was due to Aquino himself.

"The Vice President respects the private nature of this conversation with President Aquino. It was after all a meeting between friends. Our understanding is that in the course of the conversation, the President asked the Vice President about his family and Vice President replied the family is hurting from all the lies and baseless accusations, especially his wife, Dr. Elenita Binay," the statement said.

"At this point the President asked how he can help or 'paano ako makakatulong?' It was in this context that the Senate was mentioned in the conversation. The Vice President then thanked the President for his concern."

'Doing his job'

The Vice President faces a plunder complaint for an allegedly overpriced Makati City Hall building during his time as mayor of the city. Binay has cried foul over the allegations, dismissing them as politically motivated. He leads surveys on presidential preferences for the 2016 polls.

In his October 14 speech, Binay slammed Justice Secretary Leila de Lima for her "unusual interest" in investigating him for alleged corruption despite the many cases calling for her attention, and accused those around Roxas of "attacking" him.

The President however did defend Binay, who is head of the National Housing Authority (NHA), when asked whether their relationship has changed after Binay’s scathing speech.

“His assignments, he has done. After doing his assignments, should I be castigating him? I don’t think that’s proper,” Aquino said. Rappler.com