Binay: Ombudsman out to disqualify opposition bets
MANILA, Philippines – Vice President Jejomar Binay criticized the Ombudsman's approval of graft and other criminal charges against him as a tool to disqualify opposition candidates.
The opposition's standard-bearer accused the anti-graft body of effectively meddling in elections by filing cases against rivals of the administration.
“Eh kasi ang lumalabas ang Ombudsman ngayon, humuhusga na sino ang dapat manalo kasi dini-disqualify ang kalaban,” Binay said in an interview in Mandaluyong on Tuesday, October 13.
(It turns out that the Ombudsman is now the one judging who should win elections by disqualifying the rivals of the administration.)
The Vice President was responding to Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales' finding of probable cause to file charges of graft, falsification of public documents, and malversation against him over the allegedly overpriced Makati parking building constructed from 2007 to 2013. (READ: 'World-class prices' for Binay's parking building)
The Ombudsman found “flagrant anomalies” in the design and construction of the building. The agency said documents showed that Binay and son Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin “Junjun” Binay Jr approved the bid resolutions, notice of awards, contracts and payments for the project.
The decision was announced on Monday, the same day the opposition bet filed his candidacy for president. It also came 3 days after the Ombudsman dismissed Mayor Binay due to the parking building, and perpetually disqualified him from public office.
The chairman of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) said it is not just him but other candidates too that the Ombudsman wants to take out.
“Kayo na maghusga. Sinasabi pa nila paano ba yan, gusto ang kalaban nila ma-disqualify, kahit sa local governments. Sa Zamboanga del Norte, halos 8 local officials inabot ng dismissal. So bantayan lang ninyo,” Binay said.
(You be the ones to judge. They are even saying that the Ombudsman wants to disqualify administration rivals in local governments. In Zamboanga del Norte, almost 8 local officials faced dismissal. Just watch.)
Binay asked why he was included in the resolution against 22 other officials when the Ombudsman admitted that cases cannot be filed before his term ends on June 30, 2016.
The Ombudsman conceded that as an impeachable officer, Binay cannot be the subject of a criminal case filed in court. The office though maintained that it made the resolution public to inform voters ahead of the May 2016 polls.
Binay blasted this statement. “Kailan pa nagkaroon ng [ganoong] mandate iyon? Tingnan mo ang timing. Tingnan mo ang ginawa, makikita mo ang intensyon sa ginawa.”
(Since when did the Ombudsman have that mandate of informing people for the elections? Just look at the timing of what they did. It will betray the intention of the action.)
Binay is the subject of 5 plunder complaints before the Ombudsman, a yearlong Senate investigation, and an Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) probe over allegedly overpriced Makati projects. Before becoming vice president, Binay was Makati mayor for 21 years.
Despite Binay's accusations, Ombudsman Morales repeatedly says that she is independent, and is only fulfilling her mandate.
'Resolution did not say I earned kickbacks'
The Vice President said the Ombudsman resolution was part of a series of legal and political moves to derail his candidacy. He said he anticipates more actions from the body based on complaints of his ally-turned-rival, former Makati Vice Mayor Ernesto Mercado.
A lawyer, Binay said that there is no clear evidence against him.
“Sinasabi nila may kaso pero wala sa resolution. 'Di naman sinabi nakinabang ako doon so makikita ninyong talagang paninira lang.” (They say there is a case but it's not in the resolution. It does not say I earned from the project so it is pure harassment.)
Binay reiterated that he was not accountable for checking the documents related to the project. (READ: Binay: Signatures don't mean I approved bid-rigging)
“It is not my job. Signing is only ministerial. All mayors sign projects and that is a ministerial function,” he said in Filipino.
“Those papers go through many processes. So in the law, there is presumption of regularity. When I was mayor, I always complained to the Commission on Audit why I needed to sign when it's just ministerial. That is the reason you get many cases.”
The presidential bet questioned the speed of the Ombudsman resolution compared to other cases, which he said languished before the body.
The Ombudsman pointed out that the findings came after a year of investigation that began in September 2014.
While he foresaw the cases, Binay said these demoralize him.
“Nasasaktan pa rin ang kalooban ko sa pangyayari. 'Di tayo nagpapakaipokrito.” (I still get hurt with what is happening. I will be a hypocrite not to admit that.)
Binay spent his first day as an official presidential candidate by visiting the Special Learning School for Children in Mandaluyong, with his host, Mayor Benjamin “Benhur” Abalos Jr. The two also led a boodle fight.
Abalos is the son of former Commission on Elections chairman Benhur Abalos, a close ally of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. The younger Abalos is supporting Binay, who joked that he might draft the mayor as a senatorial bet in 2019.
During the event, bags from the office of Binay's daughter, Senator Nancy Binay, were distributed.
Yet Mayor Abalos was quick to deny that this constituted premature campaigning. “In all of our meetings, we're very careful there's no campaigning here that people are told to vote.”
“It's just through the school, and [the] Filipino hospitality that we are with the Vice President.” – Rappler.com
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