VP’s Coconut Palace residence a non-issue – Binay camp

Mara Cepeda
VP’s Coconut Palace residence a non-issue – Binay camp
Vice presidential spokesman Joey Salgado responds to the 'petty' issue raised by Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda

MANILA, Philippines – The camp of Vice President Jejomar Binay on Saturday, June 27, criticized Malacañang for bringing up the “petty” issue of Binay’s use of the Coconut Palace as his official residence.

“It seems the Palace is now doing an accounting of the supposed favors extended by the President to the Vice President, treating public funds as personal monies given to officials and agencies who, in turn, are expected to be eternally grateful,” said Binay’s spokesman Joey Salgado.

Salgado was reacting to the statement of Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda that Binay, who claimed to be an”underdog” in the Aquino administration, took official residence at the Coconut Palace upon the initiative President Benigno Aquino III.

The Binay spokesman maintained that the Vice President had “raised substantive issues” against the administration while Malacañang “chose to be petty instead by raising the issue of the Coconut Palace.”

He said the fact is, the Coconut Palace is still owned by the Government Service Insurance System and that the Office of the Vice President (OVP) is “a mere tenant.”

“The OVP used to occupy not even one floor of the Philippine National Bank building in Pasay City. It paid almost P1 million in rent,” he said.

Salgado said that while Binay is “eternally grateful” to Aquino for allowing him to use the Coconut Palace, Binay “did not beg” for supposed favors or alms.

“He simply wanted an office for the vice president befitting the second highest official of the land. Future Vice Presidents can now look forward to having such an address,” Salgado said, adding that the Coconut Palace was “neglected and nearly decrepit” until Binay moved in.

He said that instead of bringing up the Coconut Palace issue, Malacañang should just address widespread hunger and poverty, and its “glaring blunders.”

Binay resigned from Aquino’s Cabinet on June 22. (READ: Binay: I resigned to protest ‘crooked, failed’ gov’t). 

The vice president is among the front runners for the 2016 presidential elections.

‘An inconvenient truth’

Lacierda said on Saturday that his point in bringing up the Coconut Palace “is very simple, though perhaps an inconvenient truth” – that the “Vice President’s mandate was respected far beyond the simple constitutional fact that the vice presidency exists in order to have a duly designated successor should something happen to the Chief Executive.”

Binay’s predecessors had no official residence. 

“It was respected in that every possible means was found, particularly if at the behest of the Vice President in order to be of service to the people, to give him every opportunity, dignity and convenience, to be useful,” said Lacierda.

He asserted that neither partisanship nor politics was the benchmark for determining what the Vice President could do.

“If today, the Vice President’s spokesmen feel compelled to justify their principal or his actions or even motivations, that is their right – but irrelevant as to the opportunities the Vice President was given to be part of the solution and not part of the nation’s problems,” Lacierda added.

The President and some of his officials have criticized Binay for complaining about the “failed” administration he served only after his resignation from his Cabinet positions. They said he could have helped improve government service by proposing solutions to the Cabinet. (READ: Aquino to Binay: I didn’t make you a ‘spare tire) – Rappler.com

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.