Aquino-Binay alliance on edge of rupture
CANBERRA—Apparently inevitable is the rupture of the tenuous alliance between President Aquino and Vice President Jejomar Binay. It is only a matter of time before the breakup occurs. The question is who of the two will suffer more damage from the schism.
Last week the two men stood on the brink of confrontation as Binay blasted the administration for supposedly being engaged in a plot to remove him from office on charges of corruption allegedly committed during his tenure as mayor of Makati City. Speaking at a national convention of public attorneys at the Manila Hotel on Oct. 14, Binay said: “The cat is out of the bag. It is all part of the script that really, by all means, this means this is their Operation Anyone but Binay.”
He said Justice Secretary Leila de Lima was investigating him upon the request of the Senate although the blue ribbon subcommittee has not yet even completed its inquiry. Starting with the allegations of unexplained wealth made against him at the Senate inquiry, he said, the next plan is to impeach him, in the light of De Lima’s statement that he can be investigated and that he can face impeachment.
“I have fought many times. There were many instances that the law was broken, and I will not allow this to happen. The reason I can be removed from office, among others, would be for violating the Constitution during my term as vice president. That is very clear,” said Binay, a lawyer. He said he could not understand why the Department of Justice was giving priority to his investigation when it was still in the midst of looking into the controversies involving the pork barrel and the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), the administration’s scheme for the distribution of largesse from public funds. The Supreme Court has struck down parts of the DAP as unconstitutional. The administration has claimed the DAP to be a measure aimed at pump-priming the economy.
It appeared that it was the supposed impeachment plan that prompted Binay’s broadsides against the administration, including the alleged mistreatment of former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and the lenient attitude toward Philippine National Police Director General Alan Purisima, who, like Binay, is also alleged to have amassed unexplained wealth.
Binay claimed that he had “no love lost” for Arroyo, who is under hospital arrest as she awaits the outcome of several cases filed against her by the Aquino administration, and that he was just raising the issue of fairness. “Is the way they are treating Arroyo fair?” he said in asking why the courts seemed not to act on her petition for bail after the prosecution had presented its case against her.
He also raised the issue of the administration’s “selective justice,” noting out how the political opposition seems to be its target. He pointed out that after the administration had detained Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla for the alleged misuse of their pork barrel funds, the prosecution stopped there. He added that Budget Secretary Butch Abad had refused to submit documents to Congress on the DAP spending.
Binay then turned on the fire on the illegality of the DAP. In the beginning, “there was no such animal,” he said. “What is their defense? The end justifies the means. The DAP was used for various things. I think it’s high time our lawyers came in [to show] there is a violation of the law.”
Attempts to avert a breakup between the President and the Vice President did not appear to have made headway. The two leaders talked for more than three hours in Malacañang on Oct. 14, according to Binay himself. Asked by reporters whether he remained an ally of the administration, he said he was not only an ally, “but because of the meeting, our friendship only became stronger.” He did not disclose what he and the President talked about, saying only: “Secret.” But it was a friendly talk, he said. When asked whether he discussed with the President his complaint on why the Department of Justice was investigating him on corruption allegations, he said: “We did not talk about that.”
Binay, who heads the opposition party United Nationalist Alliance, has deep ties of friendship with the Aquino family. He was appointed mayor of Makati by the President’s mother, President Cory Aquino, during the transition period following the Edsa People Power Revolution in 1986.
After Binay’s tirades against the Aquino administration, an ally of the President and a stalwart of the Liberal Party called for the resignation of the Vice President as a member of the Cabinet holding the post of housing administrator.
Caloocan City Rep. Edgar Erice said Binay should quit the Aquino Cabinet so he could get more elbow room to take a swing at the administration.
“Definitely, Binay must get out of the Cabinet first so he can say whatever he wants to say to his heart’s content,” Erice said, echoing his privilege speech four months ago that taunted Binay to show his “true colors” and make up his mind whether he was for or against the administration.
“But knowing [Binay’s] delicadeza, I am sure he will not. He will surely regret losing out in the freebies given to a member of the Cabinet,” Erice said.
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