‘Hilaw’ | Inquirer Opinion
There’s the Rub


/ 12:12 AM September 02, 2014

It was potentially explosive.

It trotted out an explosive witness, one who knew whereof he spoke, having been party to the crime and willing to own up to it. It had an explosive target, who was nothing less than the Vice President, who was threatening to become the next president in two years’ time. And it had to do with an explosive scandal, a theft of billions that made the one Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla were accused of look like pickpocketing.


That was of course Ernesto Mercado appearing before the Senate to damn Jojo Binay to hell, or its earthly equivalent in a fall in pre-electoral numbers. Mercado was Binay’s former vice mayor, the one person he once promised to make mayor before he threw his blessings instead to his son, Junjun. Mercado testified that he made money off Phases I and II of the Makati parking building. The entire project was supposed only to cost P1.2 billion but ended up costing P2.3 billion instead. He did not mention how much his share of the loot was. Or Binay’s.

Senators Alan Peter Cayetano and Antonio Trillanes IV hammered on the accusation, Cayetano comparing the Makati parking building to other structures in the area which cost so much less, and Trillanes offering to shelter Mercado under the Witness Protection Program after he complained of cars tailing him.


I waited for the susunod na kabanata, but next day there was none. The next few days yielded nothing as well. What there was by way of a follow-up was the Binays giving their side, remonstrating with Trillanes for bullying the witnesses. As to Mercado being in fear for his life, they said he was a well-known gambler and could expect to have enemies. They, they said, were the least of his worries.

Does this prove Binay truly has a Teflon personality and accusations just bounce off him like bullets off Superman?

Not really. All it proves is that if you’re going to accuse somebody, make sure you have the facts to back it up. The one Mercado—and his backers—made at the Senate did not. It was more hilaw than a manggang hilaw.

Take it from the US Prosecutors’ Office: If you don’t have a case that can stand up in court, don’t even think to prosecute. It won’t help you, it will only help the prosecuted. That is because you make it harder to do it the next time. You keep doing it and prosecution will become persecution. Or seen as so.

In lieu of facts, all Mercado—and his backers—unleashed was speculation.

You want to show that Binay ripped off a fortune from the Makati parking building, show how much and how he did it. It won’t do to just say that if you, as vice mayor, stole from it—and won’t say how much either—then surely the mayor must have done so as well, and more. All that does is to indict you personally, as it has Mercado, or stands to do so. Binay’s retort is to be expected: “Nandamay pa.” Or just because he is a crook, he expects others to be so too.

In fact, Mercado does not know for certain, he can only speculate on the strength of the logic, “ganyan ang kalakaran dun,” (that is the normal way of doing things there). Maybe. But one can always answer that with, “ganyan ang tinatanggap na argumento sa inuman, hindi sa korte, or sa Senado” (that argument is admissible in a drinking session, not in court or in the Senate). That is the kalakaran, or normal way of doing things, in Customs too. It doesn’t follow that Sunny Sevilla is corrupt big time. At least not until proven so.


You want to show the Makati parking building is overpriced, get a group of qualified builders and engineers to say so, preferably indicating by how much. Cayetano and Trillanes spent a great deal of time saying so by comparing it to other buildings. Koko Pimentel himself says an “ocular” inspection might help. There’s only one problem there: They are not builders, they are not engineers. They are not qualified to make the determination. They merely open themselves to the charge, as some builders and engineers have charged, that they are comparing apples and oranges.

And you want to show that the Makati parking building is full of bukol, get the Commission on Audit (COA) to say so. The COA of course has said the construction has raised “red flags,” which is why it is conducting its own investigation of it. But it is one thing to say that and quite another to say it is overpriced, it has corruption written all over it, and the handwriting is Binay’s.

Do I myself think the charge is believable? Oh, yes, I do. But that is neither here nor there. The point is to prove it, or give a reasonable show of solidity to it. That is the only way to bring Binay’s numbers down. That is the only way to stop him from being the next president of the Philippines.

What happened at the Senate last week doesn’t weaken him, it strengthens him. By giving free rein to speculation, it removes the accusation from the plane of the factual, objective, ironclad, and places it in the realm of innuendo, insinuation, speculation. Indeed, by giving free rein to speculation, it lays out a welcome mat to other speculations, chiefly the political ambitions of those anxious to pin him down. Who are Cayetano and Trillanes, both of whom have expressed a desire to seek higher office, and who give the impression they can’t wait to sully him they’d go about it half-cocked. In fact, they do not put obstacles in his path to Malacañang, they clear it, giving credence to his oft-cited argument that the accusations against him are merely politically motivated.

I’m all for raising all sorts of corruption issues against Binay, but it can’t be a case of, “If at first you fail, try and try again.” If at first you fail, it will be harder the second time.

You want to show rotten, don’t bring in a fruit that’s hilaw.

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TAGS: column, Conrado de Quiros, Makati Parking Building, overpricing, Vice President Jejomar Binay
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