Vice President Jejomar Binay sought sympathy and understanding from the Catholic church as he discussed his investigation by the Senate with an official of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) and some priests in a closed-door meeting on Tuesday.
A Times source said Binay met with Manila Auxiliary Bishop Roderick Pabillo, chairperson of the CBCP Committee on Public Affairs. The vice president aired his side in the controversy involving the alleged overpricing of the Makati City Hall Building 2.
The meeting with the CBCP official took place amid reports that Binay has decided to attend the hearing of the Senate blue ribbon sub-committee which is currently probing the allegations against the vice president.
The CBCP source said Pabillo and some priests and members of the Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines (AMRSP), also attended the closed-door meeting.
Earlier, Pabillo met with former Makati vice mayor Ernesto Mercado, who testified before the Senate panel that the Makati City Hall building was overpriced and that Binay owns a 350-hectare agricultural estate in Rosario, Batangas.
“In the spirit of fairness we have to listen to both sides,” said the source.
During the meeting, the source said Binay handed Pabillo a statement belying all the allegations against him.
“He [Binay] said it [the accusation]was politically motivated,” the source said.
The statement was entitled “The Truth about the Senate Blue Ribbon Sub Committee Hearing.”
In the statement, Binay expressed his reluctance to attend the Senate blue ribbon sub-committee hearing because he does not wish to dignify “that kind of proceeding by attending it.”
He noted that the Senate hearing has relied mainly on the mere allegations and speculations of political detractors of the Vice President.
“Despite several hearings, none of them have presented concrete evidence to prove their allegations against the Vice President and his family. Their detractors have merely made insinuations, conjectures, and wild statements not supported by a single shred of evidence,” Binay stressed.
He again took a swipe at Senators Antonio Trillanes 4th and Allan Peter Cayetano who are leading the Senate inquiry.
“It is also becoming increasingly clear that the senators are only after media mileage as evidenced when Senator Trillanes refused to conduct the ocular inspection of the Sunchamp property without media in tow,” Binay said. “This only proves that the Senate is not the proper forum to answer the malicious accusations against the Vice President. The inquiry is being conducted to determine the criminal and administrative culpability of the Vice President when in fact only the courts can decide on criminal liabilities.”
Binay, who was elusive to the media, arrived at 2:10 p.m. at the Archdiocese of Manila.
On the other hand, United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) interim president Rep. Tobias Tiangco of Navotas on Tuesday said Binay has been insisting on attending Thursday’s hearing of the Senate blue ribbon sub-committee despite the lawmaker’s objections.
Tiangco said Binay told his party-mates in a meeting on Monday that he will attend the hearing.
The lawmaker, however, objected to the idea and told The Manila Times in a text message that he set up a meeting with Binay on Tuesday night to convince him not to go to the Senate.
Tiangco maintained that even if the vice president appears in the hearing and defend himself, his detractors will continue their vilification campaign against him and his family.
According to Tiangco, UNA wants to protect the vice president from the “game” his detractors want him to play, which is to repeatedly answer the allegations against him.
Meanwhile, Malacañang on Tuesday said it is not joining calls for Binay’s resignation from the Cabinet.
In a press conference, Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said it is up to Binay to respond to the resignation calls made by administration allies.
“Nagsalita na po ang pangulo hinggil sa kanyang [Binay] pagganap ng mga tungkulin bilang miyembro ng Gabinete at tanging si Vice President Binay lamang po ang makakatugon sa katanungang ‘yan [The President has spoken about the vice president’s work as member of the Cabinet and only vice president Binay can answer that question],” Coloma said in response to allies’ calls for Binay to resign out of “delicadeza.”
As a member of Aquino’s Cabinet, Binay heads the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council and advises the president on overseas Filipino workers’ concerns.
On Monday, President Aquino said Binay is free to leave the Cabinet if he is unhappy with how the Aquino administration governs the country.
Aquino’s remarks came amid Binay’s reported continuing criticisms against the administration.
The President said Binay should offer advice on how to improve governance instead of just criticizing the administration.
WITH CATHERINE S. VALENTE