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Binay caught between a rock and a hard place

/ 12:57 AM July 07, 2014

After the arrest of Senator Jinggoy Estrada on plunder charges, Vice President Jejomar Binay was asked if Jinggoy would still be his running mate in the presidential elections of 2016. Binay said yes, the offer to Jinggoy still stands, although journalists detected some hesitancy in the VP’s reply.

Binay’s hesitancy is understandable. He is caught between a  rock and a hard place.

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With Jinggoy accused of diverting hundreds of millions of pesos originally intended for marginal farmers and fisher folk and for victims of typhoons and other natural calamities, it seems that it would be foolhardy for Binay to have him as his vice presidential candidate. After all, graft and corruption would be a principal issue in the 2016 elections because of the pork barrel and the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) scams. People with common sense would advise Binay to drop the whole idea.

But Binay owes Jinggoy’s dad big time. He ran and won as Erap Estrada’s running mate. Although Erap himself finished only as runner-up to P-Noy in the presidential derby in 2010, Binay could not have won without the support of Erap who is still very popular with the masses. And despite his own conviction for plunder, Erap can still influence the outcome of a presidential election.

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In the 2013 mid-term senatorial elections, Binay, Erap and Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile called themselves the Three Kings of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA). The electorate, however, must have seen through the overblown rhetoric and empty promises, such that only three of the party candidates—Nancy Binay, Gringo Honasan and JV Ejercito, another Erap son—made it, the last two barely so.

Just recently, Erap himself reiterated his support for Binay, although with a condition. If President Aquino endorsed him, all bets are off. Not only will he withdraw his support for Binay, Erap himself would run for president, thus denying Binay the “masa” votes that Erap attracts.

But Binay so covets P-Noy’s endorsement. That would make  him, Binay, both the UNA candidate and the administration candidate, which would make victory almost a certainty. That is why he has not criticized the administration although he projects himself as an opposition leader, which has prompted Caloocan Rep. Edgar Erice to challenge him to make up his mind—is he pro-opposition or pro-administration? Note that Binay has refrained from answering Erice’s question. That is what happens when a person, like Hamlet, cannot make up  his mind. In the words of Erice, Binay is paddling his canoe in two rivers.

Political circles are, as usual, full of speculation. Why should the endorsement matter so much? Has Binay promised Erap, tacitly or expressly, to use all the powers of Malacañang to persuade the Sandiganbayan to go easy on the accused or, if they are eventually found guilty, to grant them executive clemency?

To Erap, only the election of a friendly president can get his son off the hook. If Binay cannot be relied upon, then he, Erap, would, as president, do it himself.

Binay is so afraid of Erap’s clout with voters that it is not likely that he would abandon the alliance. He does realize the need to make some changes, even if only cosmetic ones. He has announced the formation of a new party, but with UNA’s founding members making up the directory of top officials. Indeed, he can attract only the same characters. The new party will be the same dog with a new collar.

That brings the question of Binay’s moral values to the fore.

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As one of UNA’s Three Wise Men, he wore his crown with pride. But that was before JPE, a member of the triumvirate, was accused of lining his pockets with pork barrel funds. And Erap himself served time in prison for the plunder case against him.

Binay has legal troubles of his own. There are pending cases  against him and his wife Elenita for graft and corruption when they were serving as mayors of Makati. There may also be charges filed against Rep. Abigail Binay, the couple’s daughter, who is alleged to have funneled her own pork barrel allocations to bogus nongovernment organizations using ghost projects as cover.

So we have the spectacle of two characters accused of taking liberties with the people’s money (Binay and Jinggoy) running for president and vice president, with an ex-convict (Erap) campaigning for them. Enrile, also accused and detained for the pork barrel scam, could very well endorse the duo from his cell, but that would be of doubtful worth.

* * *

If you are caught in heavy traffic, don’t get angry. Your blood pressure may shoot up and that is bad for your heart and brain. You can have either a heart attack or a stroke.

Instead, tune in to radio station DWBR, 104.3 FM at 8 to 9 p.m. every night. You will hear soothing music of love songs. And election lawyer Romulo Macalintal will read love poems with his cool soothing voice.

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TAGS: Jejomar Binay, Jinggoy Estrada, nation, news, plunder, politics, pork barrel scam
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