Clark, Pampanga: The camp of Vice President Jejomar Binay wants the Department of Justice (DOJ) to explain why former Makati Vice Mayor Ernesto Mercado was in a casino on Saturday and at a Liberal Party (LP) campaign sortie on Monday.
Mercado, a state witness, testified against the Vice President in the Senate probe of alleged anomalies in Makati City.
“We’re calling on the Department of Justice because he is under the custody of the WPP,” Mon Ilagan, spokesperson of the Binay-led opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), said.
The WPP is the Justice department’s Witness Protection Program.
“Meron bang permiso ‘yung paglabas-labas niya at pagpunta nya dun sa mga ibang mga lugar [Was he given permission to visit those various places?],” Ilagan asked.
“Dapat pag-aralan nila, imbestigahan [They should review it, investigate]. If there’s a violation then he can be taken out from the program,” he added.
Sen. Nancy Binay, in a separate interview, raised the question of where Mercado could have gotten his money.
“If you remember during the last hearing, he tearfully told the Senate that those under the Witness Protection Program are pitiful because like him they have no livelihood and then you will hear that he went to the casino not once but twice on that day,” Binay told reporters.
On Sunday, the senator said that she arrived in Pampanga ahead of her father’s campaign. Her husband told her that he spotted Mercado coming out of the Royce Hotel and Casino.
Former Candaba, Pampanga Mayor Jerry Pelayo also said on Sunday that he saw Mercado at the Widus casino.
“Sabi niya natalo siya [He said he lost],” Pelayo told reporters.
Senator Binay said Mercado may be getting special treatment.
“It seems Mercado is getting special treatment because if he wants to go to the casino, he can take [the bodyguards], if he wants to go to the cockpit arena, he can],” she told reporters.
Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, a guest candidate of the Liberal Party and UNA, said Mercado should be confined in a safehouse and can only move around if it has something to do with his being a witness.
“I don’t see any business for him to be in a casino. I think WPP should explain why their manner of securing a witness is like that],” Lacson said.
Mercado on Monday admitted to going to casinos but stressed that he spends his own money.
“Ang magdiversion, hindi masama. Ang masama yung nagnanakaw. Ano ba naman ang tingin niyo sakin? Ako naman, kahit papaano negosyante. Kahit paaano, may pera din naman ako [Recreation is not a sin. What is sinful is stealing. What do you think of me? I am a businessman. I have some money],” he told reporters.