Binay’s new party meets in Manila

MANILA, Philippines – The Vice President is one step ahead, and is showing no signs of stopping.

Almost a week after a 21-minute address wherein he denied allegations of corruption and laid out his campaign message for the 2016 presidential elections, Vice President Jejomar Binay will gather his allies in an organizational meeting for his new political party at the Century Park Hotel on Wednesday, September 24.

The event comes a day before the Senate is set to hold its sixth hearing on an alleged overpriced Makati “parking building,” the subject of a plunder complain against Binay and his son, Makati Mayor Jejomar Edwin Binay, Jr.

It’s a show of force for the Vice President, the only person to have confirmed his plans to run for the presidency in 2016. The night before, Binay and his allies gathered for a fellowship night.

Valenzuela Representative Sherwin Gatchalian, a member of administration ally Nationalist People's Coalition (NPC), said the meeting will be attended by people “who will part of this new party, who will be supportive of the Vice President’s campaign.”

The Vice President’s allies will also be electing national officers for the new party.

Gatchalian earlier announced his plans of joining Binay’s new party as part of the 2016 senatorial slate. Another NPC member, Isabela Governor Faustino "Bojie" Dy III, son of NPC chairman Faustino Dy Jr, has also announced his support for Binay.

Binay in March announced he would be leaving his own Partido Demokratiko ng Pilipinas-Laban party (PDP-Laban) because of “problems in the party, especially in the leadership.”

The latest surveys put Binay ahead of everyone else in the 2016 race, notches above the ruling Liberal Party’s perceived standard bearer Interior and Local Government Secretary Manual Roxas II.

Allies from all over the country

Gatchalian, who also served as the Binay-led United Nationalist Alliance (UNA)’s deputy campaign manager in the 2013 mid-term elections, said personalities from different provinces in the Philippines were invited to the meeting on Wednesday.

The meet of Binay’s allies happens as the vice president is hounded by allegations of corruption during his time as mayor of Makati. Shortly after the plunder case was filed before the Ombudsman, the Senate launched its own investigation on the issue.

During the hearings, former allies and Makati officials came forward to tell tales of corruption. The Vice President and his family – Mayor Binay, his wife former Makati mayor Elenita Binay and his daughters Senator Nancy Binay and Makati Representative Abigail Binay – all allegedly benefited from a 13% kickback for every project in the city.

It’s an accusation the Binay family and their supporters have consistently denied. They have also dismissed the probe as purely political in nature, hitting Nationalista Party (NP) Senators Alan Peter Cayetano and Antonio Trillanes II for using the probe as a means to get “media mileage for people who have plans for 2016.”

The two senators have expressed their interest in seeking higher office come 2016.

Attacks expected

Gatchalian, in a phone interview with Rappler, said the “attacks” on the vice president are expected.

“In every election, may mga issues na lalabas (these issues will come up). Ang pinaka-mahalaga dito yung (The most important thing here is if they came come up with) evidence. If these guys accuse the Vice President of corruption, they should present the evidence. Hindi puwedeng laway lang (We cannot just rely on what they say),” he said.

Echoing the statements of Binay’s other allies, Gatchalian said he was confident the probe and exposes would not make a dent on Binay’s good ratings.

The Senate Blue Ribbon subcommittee led by Senator Aquilino Pimentel III, has formally invited the vice president to its next hearing on September 25. But it’s unlikely Binay will attend.

Binay’s spokesman for political affairs, Nacionalista Party (NP) member and Cavite Governor Juanito Victor Remulla Jr, is among those "on loan" from their respective political parties in support of Binay's presidential bid. Remulla said Binay would announce his decision – on whether to attend the Senate hearing or not – during his meeting with allies.

Pimentel, in interviews with media, hoped Binay would attend the hearing, so that his explanation would be part of the subcommittee’s draft report on the probe. “The Vice President has already answered all questions. More than the oath…he spoke before the Filipino people. It’s as binding as taking his oath,” said Gatchalian. – Rappler.com