MANILA, Philippines – “Siguro ang isang partido ay nanginginig na kasi ang pambato nila ay mababa pagdating sa survey....So desperate, 'diba? (Maybe one party is shaking because its candidate still ranks low in the survey. So desperate, right?)"
Senator Nancy Binay defiantly criticized the release of a Court of Appeals (CA) freeze order on the bank accounts of her father, Vice President Jejomar Binay, relatives, and the elder Binay's alleged dummies as “harassment” of the ruling Liberal Party (LP) in preparation for the 2016 presidential polls.
The eldest daughter of the Vice President hinted that LP president-on-leave Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II was behind the freeze order and investigation of the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC).
“Nakakalungkot kasi ang AMLC has been abused para gipitin ang mga hindi kakampi ng isang partido at nakita naman natin iyan noong impeachment,” she said referring to the 2012 impeachment trial of former Chief Justice Renato Corona.
(It saddens me because the AMLC has been abused to pin down the rivals of this party, and we saw that in the impeachment.)
The opposition leader, Vice President Binay is the front runner in the 2016 polls while Roxas is the presumptive LP standard bearer. Roxas only placed 6th in the March Pulse Asia survey with a 4% rating while Binay had a score of 29%.
Senator Binay was responding to the freeze order the CA issued on Monday after the court found that her father and supposed dummies had “large and frequent” bank transactions during the construction of the allegedly overpriced Makati parking building and Makati Science High School from 2008 to 2014.
Will the Binays be willing to waive bank secrecy rights to disprove corruption allegations?
Senator Binay said: "What for? 'Di naman iyan magpo-prove whether we're guilty or not (It won't prove whether we're guilty or not)."
The senator blasted the release of the freeze order, saying it violated confidentiality rules in the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA).
“It's not a good sign sa banking industry natin ang mga ganung leakages [sic] (It's not a good sign for our banking industry that there are those leakage)."
Campaign money, businesses?
The senator reiterated the statement of her family's lawyer, Claro Certeza, that the Binays can explain the bank transactions using the Vice President's Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN), and records of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR).
Certeza said that the AMLC “misled” the CA by failing to mention that the Vice President received 2010 campaign contributions worth P231 million ($5.17 million), and incurred expenses amounting to P218 million ($4.88 million) through his bank accounts. The Binay counsel said this was reported in the statement of contributions submitted to the Commission on Elections.
Senator Binay also cited the explanation that her sister, Makati Representative Abigail Binay, gave in April when reports on the Binays' bank transactions first surfaced.
Representative Binay said that the Binay couple had total cash flow amounting to P630.9 million ($14.12 million) in the past 27 years.
“Based on cash flow statements of the couple, over P330 million came from the JCB Farms, a piggery business he started in 1994; P14 million came from salaries from 1986 to 2013; more than P4 million from his professional fees as a lawyer; and more than P49 million from the flower shop business owned by Dr Elenita S. Binay (Blooms and Bouquet),” Representative Binay said.
She added: “Also included in the cash flow is over P13 million in excess campaign contributions (SOCE) of the Vice President filed with the Commission on Elections.”
'Vindication, serious charge'
Critics of the Binays said that the freeze order “validates” the Senate probe into the corruption allegations against the political dynasty.
Binay ally-turned-rival Senator Francis Escudero said the Binays can no longer just “cry politics” this time around.
“The CA found prima facie (on its face) evidence of illegal activity connected with the use of accounts or monetary instruments. This is not a simple allegation that's related to politics because we have an agency and a court saying this, and they have to respond and explain this issue,” Escudero told reporters.
Senator Aquilino Pimentel III, chairman of the Senate blue ribbon subcommittee handling the probe, said the freeze order showed that the 20 hearings were “relevant.”
Pimentel said that some observers dismissed the longest investigation in the Senate's history as “political” but it actually led the AMLC, the Ombudsman, the BIR, and even the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to look into the allegations.
“The AMLC action, which has been supported by the CA is a vindication of the correctness and relevance of the hearings. Without the hearings, would the AMLC investigation have started? Most likely not,” Pimentel told Rappler.
“All these show that the subcommittee hearings are bearing fruit in the sense that other people, other regulators are now acting.”
The senator who filed the resolution in August 2014 calling for the probe said he, too, was vindicated.
Senator Antonio Trillanes IV said, “I'm just curious to find out how [Binay's] spokesmen would choke on this one.”
LP: It's par for the course
LP vice chairman Senate President Franklin Drilon scoffed at the Binays' claim that the ruling party was behind the AMLC probe, and the release of the freeze order.
“We have nothing to do with that. The members of the AMLC are professionals: the Bangko Sentral governor is a member, the [Securities and Exchange Commission] officials are professionals. They are not partisan.”
Drilon said the Binays' accusations of politicking are not surprising. “Of course, we expect this because this is par for the course."
A smiling Drilon said, “Malapit na ang halalan kaya lumalabas ang mga ito (The elections are near that's why this is coming out)." – Rappler.com