Ongoing efforts to harass Vice President Jejomar Binay are reminiscent of the impeachment of Chief Justice Renato Corona where government institutions like the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) were used to ensure his conviction, Sen. Nancy Binay said on Wednesday.
According to Sen. Binay, eldest child of the Vice President, although they are already expecting further harassment, she finds the latest efforts very surprising because of their resemblance to the way Corona was eased out.
“If you look at how they are doing things, it is similar to the script they used in the impeachment of Chief Justice Corona, the involvement of the AMLC and the BIR. They are using the same template,” she said.
The senator added that she would not be surprised if it turned out later that government funding, similar to the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), would be used to harass the Binay family.
She was referring to the additional allocation given to the 21 senators who voted to impeach Corona that later turned out to be part of the DAP, which was later declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
Binay also sees the hand of President Benigno Aquino 3rd’s Liberal Party (LP) behind the demolition job against the Vice President in an effort to help increase the chances of the party’s candidate in 2016.
“The mere fact that the President has to look for an alternative candidate, it means that they are having a difficult time looking for a candidate to face the Vice President,” she said.
Par for the course
Senate President Franklin Drilon denied allegations that the freeze order is part of the game plan of the LP to malign the Vice President and his family.
“We have nothing to do with that. Of course, we expect this because this is par for the course,” Drilon said.
The Senate President also maintained that the AMLC is composed of individuals who are professionals and are not partisan.
Meanwhile, Senator Francis Escudero in a separate interview said the freeze order issued by the Court of Appeals indicates that there is illegal activity in the use of monetary instrument on the part of owner of the accounts.
“This is no longer a mere allegation being hurled at him [Binay] by a political opponent but, rather, a serious accusation that he should answer and address squarely,” Escudero added.
He said the Vice President should not sweep under rug the allegations or hide behind confidentiality rules on bank deposits.
Senator Aquilino Pimentel 3rd said actions of the AMLC that were backed by the appellate court are a vindication of the correctness and relevance of the blue ribbon sub-committee hearings on the allegedly corrupt activities of the Vice President.
Pimentel pointed out that because of the sub-committee hearings, other government agencies also acted like the Bureau of Internal (BIR), which has sued businessman Antonio Tiu for tax evasion; the Department of Agrarian reform (DAR), which is reviewing the transactions involving the property in Batangas allegedly owned by the Vice President and the Office of the Ombudsman, which proceeded with plunder and graft complaints filed against Binay, his son Makati City Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay Jr. and other individuals.
“All these show that the sub-committee hearings are bearing fruit in the sense that other people, the regulators, are now acting. This is a vindication of the propriety of the sub-committee hearings,” Pimentel added.-
The camp of Vice President Binay alleged that it was former Makati Vice Mayor Ernesto Mercado who leaked the purported Court of Appeals (CA) freeze order on the Binay family’s bank accounts and insurance policies.
In a statement, the Vice President’s spokesman for political affairs, Rico Quicho, said the leak to the media of the CA order was just another “blatant attempt” to engage Binay in trial by publicity “and deprive him of the right to due process.”
“It is also an indirect way to pressure and preempt the independence of the courts, which would eventually decide on the controversy,” Quicho added.
“Moreover, this is again geared to condition the minds of the people by maligning the reputation of the Vice President because his detractors have again failed to produce proof to back up their charges in the Senate and before the Ombudsman,” he said.
On Tuesday, a source of The Manila Times in the judiciary confirmed that the CA has ordered a freeze on 242 bank accounts and insurance policies of the Vice President and his family.
The order, which will last for six months, will allow the AMLC to scrutinize the Binays’ bank accounts, as well as corporations linked to the family.
Quicho said the freeze order, as well as its leak to the media, “is plain and simple character assassination by means of peddling lies through media releases that come from polluted sources.”
Binay, he added, will address and refute these “baseless accusations.”
Quicho also hopes the Vice President will triumph in a “fair, independent and impartial trial on the merits of a competent tribunal.”
Claro Certeza, spokesman for the Binay family, said confidentiality of the proceedings involving a freeze order has been violated.
He adde that the Binay family is yet to respond to the order, and has not been given the opportunity to air its side.
Don’t look at us
Congressmen affiliated with the administration-backed Liberal Party said the Vice President should look at himself instead of pinning the blame on the ruling party for his troubles.
LP Vice Chairman and Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. of Quezon City, LP Secretary General Mel Senen Sarmiento of Western Samar, House Deputy Majority Leader Bolet Banal of Quezon City and Edgar Erice of Caloocan City made the comment in light of statements made by the Binay camp claiming that LP members already have a copy of the AMLC report on the bank account of the Binays.
“I don’t have a copy [of that report]. And I don’t really care to have a copy [of that]. It is only the Court of Appeals who can authorize anybody to open the bank accounts of a public official or even a private citizen. To insinuate it [opening of bank accounts]can be done without the CA approval is not only to demean the CA but our legal system as a whole,” Belmonte, a lawyer, told reporters.