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MANILA, Philippines – His close ally and party president questioned the residency qualifications of Senator Grace Poe, but Vice President Jejomar Binay claims to have no idea of the political gambit.
Binay said he was “surprised” that Navotas Representative Tobias “Toby” Tiangco was going to hold a press conference to say that Poe was not qualified to run for higher office in 2016. The opposition's 2013 campaign manager, Tiangco said that Poe failed to meet the 10-year residency requirement for a presidential or vice presidential candidate.
Binay, chairman and founder of the opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), said he was aware of the legal issue but not of Tiangco's announcement.
“Matagal ko nang alam iyan. Mga one month or two months ago, sinabi sa akin ni Toby iyan. Sabi ko sa kanya, 'Toby, huwag ka nang makialam diyan. Pabayaan mo na lang ang iba ang magsabi niyan,'” Binay said in an interview with Bombo Radyo Manila on Wednesday, June 3.
(I knew of this a long time ago. Maybe one month or two months ago, Toby told me about that. I told him, “Toby, don't interfere in that issue. Let others be the one to say that.")
The opposition's standard-bearer said he cannot explain why Tiangco decided to hold the press briefing supposedly without his consent.
“So eh, kagabi eh, nagulat ako. May nagsabi sa akin sinabi ni Toby ganito-ganito. Sa bagay hong iyan, kung bakit ho nasabi ni Toby eh 'tanong ninyo na lamang ho sa kanya. Pero ako mismo, sinabihan ko si Toby, 'Toby, huwag ka nang makialam diyan.' Kasi alam ko na na kahit papaano siyempre kandidato ka eh, hahanapan at hahanapan ka ng issue,” he added.
(So last night, I was shocked. Someone told me that Toby said this and that. On this matter, why not just ask Toby why he said that? As for me, I told Toby, “Toby, don't meddle with that.” Because I know that, of course, people will always find issues against candidates.)
Senator Nancy Binay, Binay's eldest daughter and a member of UNA, said that she, too, was surprised by Tiangco's statement.
“I had nothing to do with it. In fact, napanood ko na lang siya noong nakauwi ako, na parang, 'Oh my God, ganoon pala 'yung sinabi ni Cong. Toby!'” (I just saw the press conference when I got home, and I was like, “Oh my God, that's what Cong. Toby said!)
Tiangco: I did not ask permission
Tiangco told Rappler that he deliberately did not ask permission from the Vice President, and is ready to face the consequences of his actions. He said that Binay asked him about his press conference but did not scold him.
"I do not need to ask permission from my boss to defend him from attackers. Sinasaksak ang boss ko, kailangan ko pa bang magpaalam na ipagtanggol ang boss ko?" (They are already stabbing my boss. Do I still need to ask permission to defend him?)
Tiangco said that he only wanted to defend his political patrons after Poe criticized Binay and former President now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada over corruption allegations against them. Poe said that she does not want to run with the two UNA stalwarts because she wanted to campaign against corruption.
“Doesn't Grace emphasize honesty? Then she should be honest about her qualifications,” Tiangco said.
Tiangco held a press briefing on Tuesday at the House of Representatives, where he showed a copy of Poe's 2013 certificate of candidacy (COC). The congressman said that the document showed Poe was not qualified to run for higher office because she would have lived in the Philippines for only 9 years and 6 months by the May 9, 2016, polls.
Poe held her own press conference on Wednesday, where she stood by her qualifications. She boldly asked UNA: “Sa totoo lang, bakit kayo natatakot sa akin?” (Honestly, why are you threatened by me?)
The senator is reported to be a viable challenger to Binay due to her strong survey showing. Recent surveys placed her second to Binay but she has yet to declare any political plans.
Legal experts also criticized Tiangco, saying jurisprudence and the legal doctrine of animus revertendi or the intent to return disproved his argument.
Lawyers cited the case of former First Lady Imelda Marcos, whom the Supreme Court allowed to run for Leyte representative in 1995 as she was a resident of the province even if she lived in different places prior to the polls.
Binay: I won't do that to a woman
Pressed about Tiangco's statements, Vice President Binay sought to further distance himself from his political lieutenant's pronouncements.
“Ayaw ko hong makisawsaw diyan, and unang-una mahal ko pa rin ho si FPJ,” Binay said in reference to Poe's late father, actor Fernando Poe Jr. (I don't want to meddle with that, because, first, I still love FPJ.)
Binay added that it is best that voters get to choose from a wide field of candidates.
“Pangalawa, hindi ko ho ugaling, kababaeng tao pa naman, kumare ko pang buo iyan,” Binay said. (Second, it is not my character to attack a woman, especially one who is my family friend.)
The Binay camp has been sending mixed messages about Poe, highlighting a key problem in a campaign with multiple spokespersons, and with a candidate who easily gets peeved: messaging. (READ: Binay to launch party, ads despite freeze order)
Binay reiterated this on Wednesday: “The word here is 'considering.' I did not approach her and say, 'Mare, can you be my vice president?' There was no opportunity to do that. I will just repeat: there was no opportunity for me to offer her or approach her, and ask her to run with us as vice president.”
'I was with FPJ in final days'
UNA's interim secretary-general JV Bautista last week also blasted Poe for initially considering running with the ruling Liberal Party, whose members he said betrayed Poe's father in the 2004 campaign.
The elder Poe ran for president but lost in a fraud-tainted election against Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. During that time, the LP was allied with Arroyo and helped expedite the canvassing of votes despite objections made by Poe's lawyers.
While his spokespersons keep attacking Poe, Binay attempted to show his deep ties with her father.
Binay again mentioned that he was FPJ's 2004 campaign manager, and was even with him at a Christmas party when the action star was rushed to the hospital in the days leading up to his death in December 2004.
Binay said he even told FPJ, “Goodbye, my friend. God bless.” Still, it seemed like the actor was waiting for someone.
“Eh kasi may superstition at nagkatotoo ah, pagka-landing na pagka-landing ng eroplano ni Grace, patay. Na-declare nang patay na si FPJ.”
(There is a superstition that came true. Right when Grace's plane landed, FPJ died. He was declared dead.)
Now, Binay said it saddens him that Senator Poe signed the partial Senate blue ribbon subcommittee report recommending plunder charges against him over the Makati parking building.
Binay referred to FPJ's memory in questioning Senator Poe's statements about his reputation for corruption.
“Kung ako po ay dishonest and whatever, si FPJ po, hindi talaga nakikisalamuha sa may mga irregularity at dishonest.” (If I were dishonest and whatever, FPJ would not deal with people who have irregularities, and are dishonest) – Rappler.com