“The Vice President believes in our criminal justice system and is abiding by the rule of law in order to prove that his accusers are liars and political opportunists.”
This was the statement of Joey Salgado, the media affairs chief of the Office of the Vice President, on Thursday after Vice President Jejomar Binay filed separate libel complaints against his critics, Sen. Antonio Trillanes 4th and former Makati City Vice Mayor Nestor Mercado.
Binay, clad in gym wear, personally filed the complaints with the Makati City Regional Trial Court.
In his complaint against the senator, the Vice President denied allegations that he was involved in a P100-million annual “racket” on projects involving senior citizens when he was mayor of Makati City. He said Trillanes’ claims were “utterly false and baseless.”
Trillanes is part of the Senate blue ribbon sub-committee investigating Binay’s alleged links to multi-million anomalies during his term as Makati City mayor.
The libel complaint against Mercado, meanwhile, pertains to a land development deal between the Boy Scouts of the Philippines and property developer Alphaland Corp.
Mercado told the Senate panel in February that Binay pocketed P651 million from the allegedly anomalous land deal.
He said Binay defrauded the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas in the land deal.
The Vice President also denied the allegations.
“Being the consistent front-runner in the presidential elections in May 2016, unscrupulous individuals, including respondent Trillanes, have conspired to politically assassinate me by blatantly and publicly maligning my good name and reputation with lies and defamatory statements,” Binay said.
He has declared that he will run for President under the opposition United Nationalist Alliance in next year’s elections.
The Vice President led pre-election presidential preference surveys until Sen. Grace Poe overtook him in surveys early this year.
“The damaging and ruinous claims spewed out by respondent Mercado are mere concoctions and fabrications with no other purpose than to malign, discredit, ruin my reputation and besmirch my good name as well as that of my family,” Binay said.
He claimed that he “incurred the ire” of Mercado when the latter failed to get his endorsement in the 2010 elections.
Mercado, a former Binay ally, lost to the Vice President’s son, Jejomar Erwin, in the 2010 polls.
The younger Binay, meanwile, told the Department of Justice (DOJ) that Trillanes can neither invoke parliamentary immunity nor freedom of speech as a defense in a libel complaint for accusing justices of the Court of Appeals of accepting bribes.
In a reply-affidavit he filed with the DOJ also on Thursday, Binay insisted there is probable cause to charge Trillanes for violation of Article 355 in relation to Article 353 of the Revised Penal Code.
Trillanes had invoked parliamentary immunity under Section 11, Article VI of the 1987 Constitution, which provides that no senator shall be questioned nor be held liable in any other place for any speech or debate in Congress or in any committee hearing.
But the younger Binay said Trillanes was “grossly mistaken” for invoking such immunity because the privilege applies only when necessary to prevent indirect impairment of deliberations being made in Congress.
“Evidently, the investigation and, if warranted, the eventual prosecution of the respondent for the crime of libel will not impugn any of his legislative acts,” Binay said.
He added that Trillanes should not be covered by parliamentary immunity because the lawmaker made his accusations in the media, not in Congress.
“Clearly, when respondent authored, mouthed, disseminated and distributed his lies to the media and the public outside the session halls of the Senate, he shed any pretense of acting in the official discharge of his duties,” Binay said.
He took Trillanes to court for “publicly claiming” that the mayor bribed members of the 6th Division of the Court of Appeals (CA) “by paying them millions of pesos in exchange for favorable action” on the temporary restraining order (TRO) against his suspension order.
Binay escaped suspension after the CA issued a TRO against the Office of the
Ombudsman, which had issued a preventive suspension order against the mayor over alleged overpricing in the Makati CIty Hall Building 2 project.
He, however, ended up leaving his post after the Office of the Ombudsman issued another preventive suspension over separate claims of overpricing in the Makati Science High School building project.
Binay failed to secure a TRO for the second suspension.