Binay and the court of public opinion
Six times in the past seven weeks, this column has been devoted to issues surrounding the Makati parking building and other possible cases of corruption against Vice President Jejomar Binay, who, as mayor, and together with his wife (three years) and son (four years and counting), has ruled Makati for the past 27 years.
Why the concentration on the overpriced building and Binay? Because Binay has made no secret of his desire to be president of the Philippines in 2016. Therefore, Filipinos should have access to independent information (as opposed to his press releases and the work of his network of media professionals) on how he ran Makati, which will help them make up their minds as to whether he deserves to be president—other than that he has been dreaming of it since he was a poor, orphaned child.
Binay has portrayed himself as a victim of political persecution, saying the case involving the Makati parking building is already with the Sandiganbayan and therefore should no longer be heard by the Senate blue ribbon subcommittee headed by Koko Pimentel. In addition, he says, the subcommittee has no jurisdiction and it should be the full committee that should be hearing the case.
Sorry, Mr. Vice President. It takes the Sandiganbayan an average of eight years to resolve a case, and quite apart from the doubts on its integrity, it is a fact that a decision made eight years from now by that court will be useless to the Filipino people who will be judging you in the election that will take place 18 months from now. Which is why they need to know about how you ran Makati, and, relatedly, your unexplained wealth.
The only possible place they can get their facts is from the Pimentel subcommittee, but you and your minions are trying your best to gag them. The political-persecution ploy is overplayed, I think. The fact that you are allowed by the administration to hand out land titles (the President usually does that) allows me to rest my case. The lack-of-jurisdiction ploy is the same one you used in 1995, and it bought you four years from the Supreme Court. I don’t know how many times you’ve used it since then, but I hope it doesn’t succeed now. The fate of the country is at stake.
Then there’s the presumption-of-innocence ploy—a man is presumed innocent until he is found guilty. True enough. But the Senate hearings are not a criminal proceeding, so that presumption is not at issue. This is the court of public opinion. Because, Mr. Vice President, you want to be president. And the question of the people watching is: Are you worthy?
During the Senate blue ribbon subcommittee’s hearings, Mayor Junjun Binay asserted that the parking building was world-class, and green to boot, which set the agenda for the hearings. He also said his accusers were selective, because they excluded former vice mayor Ernesto Mercado from the complaint when Mercado had signed incriminating documents. It has been determined that the building is definitely not world-class, it definitely is not green. And, it was Junjun Binay who opened the door to Mercado’s testimony, by mentioning him in the first place.
Mercado and other former city officials and Binay allies all admitted that there were all sorts of corruption going on in Makati City Hall in which they were participants, including the latest bombshells—the Ospital ng Makati and “Hacienda Binay,” 350 hectares of it. Damning evidence. If the Binays have the answers to the accusations, they have to go to the Senate and present these answers in full view of the public.
The people are watching, and judging from the surveys on Binay’s performance and trustworthiness, they are starting to input these into their judgments. And still, Binay pere et fils refuse to go to the Senate and answer the accusations of the “resource persons.” They prefer to do it out of the Senate session hall. Is it because in the Senate hall, their answers will be subject to the scrutiny of everyone, and challenged? It is much easier to issue press releases.
For example, they are trying to impeach Audit Commissioner Heidi Mendoza’s testimony on the Ospital ng Makati (overprice of P61 million, total expenditures audited P70 million), saying that the case was dismissed in 2011 by the Sandiganbayan, in a decision affirmed by the Supreme Court. And that Heidi should have known this. Implying that her testimony was all a lie, because she is somebody’s attack dog.
Well, I checked. There are four cases involving the office furniture at Makati City Hall, and three cases involving the Ospital ng Makati in the Sandiganbayan and two cases in the Makati Regional Trial Court. The case they are referring to is one of the four Makati City Hall cases, three of which are still active. It has nothing to do with the Ospital ng Makati cases, which are still ongoing. There is no way the Binay lawyers don’t know this. Yet they use it to impeach Heidi. I’ll take Heidi—any time.
See why they didn’t bring their accusation to the Senate? An educated guess: It can’t stand scrutiny, and the viewing public would see it for what it is.
As for “Hacienda Binay,” we will see how credible the “sale” of that property is. But meanwhile, where are the Binay classmates, and the politicians, or the wives, who have enjoyed the hospitality of the former mayor of Makati and his wife? They should know. Why don’t they come out and tell the Filipino people what they know? I challenge them to tell the truth.
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