MANILA, Philippines – Vice President Jejomar Binay filed separate libel raps against two of his critics before the Office of the City Prosecutor of Makati on Thursday, September 10.
Binay filed the complaints against Senator Antonio Trillanes IV and former Makati Vice Mayor Ernesto Merado for making “defamatory statements” against him and violating Article 355 in relation to Article 353 of the Revised Penal Code.
Trillanes had claimed that Makati, where Binay was mayor for 21 years, has “ghost” beneficiaries for its benefit program for the elderly.
The Vice President’s libel complaint also cited a Philippine Daily Inquirer report quoting Trillanes as saying that he would take the lead in exposing “the alleged P100-million ‘racket’ a year in Makati City.”
“Being the consistent front runner in the presidential elections in May 2016, unscrupulous individuals, including respondent Trillanes, have conspired to politically assassinate me by blatantly and publicly maligning my good name and reputation with lies and defamatory statements,” said Binay, the standard-bearer of the opposition party United Nationalist Alliance for 2016, in his complaint.
Binay also filed a libel complaint against Mercado, a political rival who has been testifying against the Vice President in the ongoing Senate blue ribbon subcommittee investigation into Binay’s alleged corruption.
According to Mercado, Binay had pocketed almost P200 million in a deal with property developer Alphaland for a Boy Scouts of the Philippines (BSP) property in Makati City. The said joint venture was allegedly disadvantageous for the BSP.
“Clear from the foregoing is that the damaging and ruinous claims spewed out by respondent Mercado are mere concoctions and fabrications with no other purpose than to malign, discredit, ruin my reputation and besmirch my good name as well as that of my family,” Binay said.
Joey Salgado, the Vice President’s media affairs head, said Binay filed the libel complaints because the Vice President “believes in our criminal justice system and is abiding by the rule of law in order to prove that his accusers are liars and political opportunists.”
Binay earlier filed a P200 million ($4.41 million) damage suit in July against Trillanes, Mercado, and other lawmakers, political rivals, and government agencies in relation to the corruption allegations being hurled at the Vice President since mid-2014.
However, Trillanes seemed unfazed by the cases filed against him by the Vice President and his son.
“He can do whatever he wants. I’ll just remain focused on exposing him and hopefully having him sent to jail,” Trillanes said in a statement sent to Rappler.
‘Absolutely no evidence’
According to Binay, Trillanes claims that there are “ghost” senior citizens in Makati are “false, baseless and without factual basis.”
In the libel case, the Vice President echoed statements from his camp saying that protocols and procedures are currently in place to verify the identities of every senior citizen applying for the Blu Card program, the benefit program for Makati’s elderly residents.
On August 20, a Makati city government official testified before senators saying that an ongoing audit of the Blu Card program showed that around 40% to 52% of the elderly-beneficiaries are “ghosts,” causing the city government to lose about P367.5 million a year.
However, Binay said there is no concrete evidence proving that he pocketed the money.
“Assuming without conceding the existence of ‘ghost’ beneficiaries, there is absolutely no evidence to show that I was the one who ‘stole’ these monies from the Makati Government funds. These are the lies and defamatory statements being made by Respondent Trillanes,” the Vice President said.
Motives for malice
Meanwhile, Binay said Mercado’s statements are libelous because the former vice mayor “has not presented any credible and admissible evidence to support or corroborate his bare allegation that I allegedly received kickback in the BSP-Alphaland deal.”
Mercado had also claimed that Binay and his son Junjun overpriced the free birthday cakes for the Makati senior citizens, but city government records disproved his claims. Mercado later admitted that he only guessed when he made the allegation.
According to the Vice President’s second libel case, Mercado wants to malign his name and reputation because Binay did not endorse Mercado in the 2010 Makati mayoral race. (READ: Makati corruption witness: Who is Ernesto Mercado?)
Binay said Mercado was “relying heavily on [his] endorsement” then, but the Vice President fielded his son Junjun for mayor instead.
The Vice President said Mercado not only lost by a landslide vote, but he also incurred substantial financial losses because of the failed bid.