Makati building probe: Binay camp denies pressuring Ombudsman

MANILA, Philippines – The camp of Vice President Jejomar Binay denied Sunday, March 6, that it is trying to pressure the Office of the Ombudsman to delay its report on the alleged corruption in the construction of the Makati City Hall Building II.

This comes after United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) president Toby Tiangco said Saturday, March 5, that they received information that the Ombudsman is pressuring COA officials to release their special audit report on the building. (READ: Who's pressuring who on Makati building COA report?)

In response, the Ombudsman called the UNA statement a "deliberate lie," saying it was Binay who "pleaded with a COA official" not to release the audit report on the Makati City Hall Building II until after elections.

"Ano naman po kaya ang poder na maaari naming ipakita para mag-pressure sa Office of the Ombudsman?" said UNA spokesperson Rico Quicho on Sunday.

(What power do we have to pressure the Office of the Ombudsman?)

"Ito'y malinaw na diversionary tactic ng Office of the Ombudsman. Ang hindi ho nila sinasagot ay 'yong mga oppressive moves na ginagawa nila laban kay Vice President Binay," Quicho said.

(It's clear that it's a diversionary tactic by the Office of the Ombudsman. What they won't address is the oppressive moves they are making against Vice President Binay.)

Quicho said that the letter sent by Tiangco to the COA was to remind the commission not to conduct special audits on any person running in the upcoming elections, not just on the Vice President. This, he said, is under the COA's own rules.

"Ang sulat na ito ay hindi patungkol lamang kay Vice President Binay," Quicho added. "Ito po' patungkol sa lahat ng mga kandidato ng United Nationalist Alliance na patuloy na nakakaramdam ng pananakot at panggigipit sa kanilang mga katunggali sa iba't ibang lalawigan po at sa iba't ibang bayan."

(This letter isn't just about Vice President Binay. This also covers all candidates of the United Nationalist Alliance around the country who are repeatedly threatened and harassed by their opponents.)

The long-running controversy over the allegedly overpriced contracts for the Makati government building has been hounding the Vice President since 2014. It has already led to the dismissal of his son, Jejomar Erwin Binay Jr, from his post as Makati mayor, and they have been the subjects of a Senate inquiry and a plunder charge before the Ombudsman.

The ruling Liberal Party, meanwhile, said the Vice President's camp is blocking the release of the report for fear it would derail Binay's bid for Malacañang.

"Dahil sigurado sila na sasabit sya, plano ng kampo ni VP Binay, tapusin muna ang eleksyon sa Mayo bago ilabas ang katotohanan sa milyon-milyong kickback na naibulsa nya," said administration coalition spokesman Akbayan Representative Ibarra Gutierrez.

(Because they know he'll get into trouble, VP Binay's camp plans to let the elections pass before the truth on their millions of pesos in kickbacks can be revealed.)

"Kung malinis ang konsensya nya, kahit ilang patong pa na COA report ang ilabas tungkol sa kanya, hindi man lang sya makakaramdam ng kaba," Gutierrez added.

(If his conscience is clear, even if COA releases report after report against him, he won't feel nervous.)

Quicho, however, said that the Vice President's camp is not afraid to face the issue, and again decried what they said was the ruling party's use of the Office of the Ombudsman to pull down Binay's chances for the presidency.

In the latest Pulse Asia survey, Binay and Senator Grace Poe were tied at the top spot.