Aquino-Binay tiff: Case of pot calling kettle black?
President Aquino swiftly hit back at Vice President Jejomar Binay after the latter resigned from the Cabinet last week, denouncing the administration as “insensitive” to the plight of the poor and “inept.”
Within hours after receiving last Monday the shock one-line letter of “immediate” and “irrevocable” resignation that ruptured the political alliance between the two highest officials of the land, the President instructed his Cabinet secretaries to respond to Binay’s sweeping allegations “with specifics,” while he himself would handle the escalating conflict “on the level of principles and values.”
The response appeared as an attempt by the President to define the agenda of the public debate over the 2016 presidential election, elevate it above name-calling and to regain the initiative from Binay’s attacks.
The Palace’s riposte tried to project the administration as the incarnation of the political virtues of good governance while it portrays Binay as the epitome of corruption as former mayor of Makati City for the past three decades.
These two contrasting perspectives of issues looming ahead of the 2016 presidential election, in which the President is seeking a successor administration that would carry on his political reform embodied in his slogan “matuwid na daan” (straight path), highlight themes of self-righteous (black and white) morality issues in a secular election.
In Valenzuela City on Saturday at the opening of his campaign to run for President as leader of the opposition (United Nationalist Alliance), Binay raised the issue of bad governance against the Aquino administration. He focused on specific issues.
“Our problem is bad governance,” he said. “The people continue to be impoverished and many do not have jobs. That is our problem.”
“In the coming elections, the one that should lead us should have competence, experience and concern for the country.” he said.
In an earlier speech at Coconut Palace, where he held office, the Vice President called the Aquino administration “insensitive” and “bumbling,” citing such issues as the recurrent Metro Rail Transit breakdowns and the Disbursement Acceleration Program—pork barrel funds allocated to members of Congress for distribution as political patronage.
The President has dodged this issue, and instead hit back at Binay.
At the opening ceremony of the Livestock Philippines 2015 Expo in Pasay City, Mr. Aquino expressed surprise and said he was hurt by Binay’s attacks as the Vice President bolted the Cabinet.
The President told reporters he was offended because he had always treated Binay fairly. He accused Binay of repaying him with viciousness.
Mr. Aquino’s response had nothing to do with specifics; it had more to do with “utang na loob” (gratitude).
Members of the Binay family offered their own version of why their patriarch resigned.
Makati Rep. Abigail Binay, who delivered the resignation letter to Malacañang, told the media that the Vice President decided to quit and hit back at his former Cabinet colleagues because he was fed up with “being a punching bag” of the President’s allies.
She said it was just a matter of time that her father resigned from the Cabinet as presidential adviser on overseas Filipino workers (OFW) affairs and chair of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC).
According to some media reports, the President’s silence on corruption charges against Binay had pushed the Vice President to resign. One report said Binay’s chief of staff had told Malacañang officials that the Vice President felt bad that Mr. Aquino did not defend him from his critics.
Binay and his son, Makati Mayor Junjun Binay, are facing plunder and graft complaints in the Office of the Ombudsman over the alleged overpricing of the Makati City Hall Building II.
Binay resigned amid investigations by the Ombudsman and Mr. Aquino’s allies in the Senate into charges of alleged kickbacks, ill-gotten wealth, bid rigging and money laundering.
The President has noted that Binay left the Cabinet and is now attacking the administration because Binay had not secured his endorsement of his presidential bid.
Since his appointment as presidential adviser on OFW affairs in 2010, Binay has had an uneasy political partnership with the President, whose norms of leadership contrast sharply with his.
No two politicians in high office could have a more contrasting outlook in terms of ethical values on governance than Binay and Aquino. This is one important reason why Binay has been treated as a pariah—as an outsider—in the Cabinet.
In his reply to Binay’s charges, the President not only directed Palace officials to debunk Binay’s claims with specifics, but he also emphasized that Binay had never formally asked him for an endorsement of his presidential candidacy.
He claimed that the administration had done everything to make Binay relevant, “not just a spare tire.”
After being appointed as chief of the HUDCC, Binay was granted his request for an additional job to address OFW concerns, Mr. Aquino said.
“And I gave all these opportunities for him to keep his ratings,” the President said, adding that Binay “was treated as a member of the official family.”
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