Binay has become the ‘Artful Dodger’
For somebody who claims to be innocent of the corruption charges leveled against him and his wife and son, Vice President Jejomar Binay certainly is acting like a guilty person. An innocent person will want to confront his accusers so that he can clear himself quickly, but Binay keeps dodging and evading them. He refuses to defend himself before the Senate blue ribbon subcommittee investigating the charges against him, although he has been politely invited several times by the senators.
He defends himself by delivering speeches but refuses to answer questions from reporters and hides behind his two mouthpieces who issue statements in his stead. When questioned by reporters, his answers are evasive: “I will answer that at the right time and at the right forum.” Asked why he does not defend himself in the Senate committee, he replies: “Magtatrabaho muna ako (I will attend to my work first).” He conveniently goes out of town to give relief supplies to evacuees or land titles to former squatters at the same time that he is supposed to be appearing before the Senate.
In another speech before squatters last Wednesday, he said of his accusers, “Hindi ko sila uurungan, lalaban tayo (I won’t run away from them, we will fight),” making sure he puts the people in his corner to gain their sympathy.
Yet that is exactly what he is doing, running away. He is not fighting, he is dodging, evading and hiding. He has become the Filipino version of the Artful Dodger.
The latest gambit of his camp is to question the jurisdiction of the Senate blue ribbon committee. The Ombudsman is already investigating the case, his camp says, and therefore the Senate has no jurisdiction over it and should stop its investigation. If the Senate doesn’t do that, Binay’s camp threatens to take the case all the way up to the Supreme Court.
One does not have to be a lawyer to see that Binay is desperately clutching at straws to prevent the Senate and the people from knowing the truth of what the Binays have been accused of doing in Makati.
They obviously want to use the notoriously slow legal system to delay the unfolding of the truth. As witness the case against his wife Elenita, also for overpricing—in her case, of hospital supplies when she was mayor of Makati. The case is already decades-old in the Sandiganbayan and there is still no end in sight.
Son Mayor Junjun is also using the legal system to dodge the Senate’s subpoena for him to answer questions on the overpriced parking building. His lawyers are questioning the jurisdiction of the Senate to investigate the case.
There can be no question of jurisdiction. The Ombudsman is looking into the criminal liability of the Binays in the overpricing of the multistory garage they built. The Senate is investigating in aid of future legislation to prevent a repetition of the same. Nobody, not even the Supreme Court, can stop the process of legislation.
But the Senate cannot imprison the Binays if it finds them guilty. To repeat, its investigation is in aid of legislation. The biggest motive of the Binay camp is to prevent the people from knowing the truth. Because the ultimate judge of the cases against the Binays will be the people, public opinion. On the other hand, the investigation of the Ombudsman and the hearings at the Sandiganbayan will not be as public as the Senate investigation.
Already the latest Pulse Asia survey shows a steep drop in the approval rating of Binay, from 41 percent to 31 percent, a 10-percent drop. Popularity ratings do not remain fixed for long. They are either on the way up or on the way down. His camp claims that he is still the leading presidential candidate. But the drop is not only by a few percentage points. The drop is too steep. That is the start of a free fall. And it is due to something that goes straight to the heart of the 2016 presidential poll—the moral fitness of a candidate to govern.
On the other hand, the rating of Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, who is untainted by corruption, almost doubled from 7 percent to 13 percent. And Roxas is not even campaigning as Binay has been doing soon after he became vice president. Roxas has not even declared his candidacy, but he is already number 2 in the ratings.
The blue ribbon committee started its hearings only last Aug. 20. Therefore, the sordid details recounted by a parade of witnesses on the grand larceny have not yet sunk in on the collective consciousness of the people.
Corruption was an issue in the 2010 presidential election. That explains the loss of Joseph Estrada and former senator Manuel
Villar. The latter suffered from perceptions that he had used his position as senator to advance the interests of his real estate companies. Although Villar reportedly spent billions of pesos for his election campaign, the biggest spender, he finished a poor third in the race.
Unfortunately for Binay, because of the corruption being unearthed in the PDAF and DAP scams, corruption would be the biggest issue in the 2016 polls. The people will be afraid to let the Binay dynasty ascend to Malacañang. Imagine what they can do there.
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