The sub-committee of the Senate blue ribbon committee that is looking into alleged anomalies linked to Vice President Jejomar Binay, his family and associates has reportedly drafted a report recommending filing of plunder charges against them.
Aside from the Vice President, also named in the draft report were his son Makati City Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay Jr. and 18 others, including incumbent and former city officials and individuals who reportedly transacted business with them.
Sen. Aquilino Pimentel 3rd, chairman of the sub-committee, on Thursday said the draft report on the alleged overpricing of the Makati City Hall Building 2 has been submitted to the mother committee.
He, however, refused to discuss details, saying the report is yet to be signed by members of the panel.
Pimentel said he and three other senators have signed the report.
He added that the report needs to be signed by at least nine committee members before it becomes official and presented in plenary.
Former party-list Rep. Jose Virgilio Bautista, interim secretary-general of the opposition United Nationalist Alliance, who was at the Senate to observe resumption of the blue ribbon hearings also on Thursday, said they already expected the sub-committee to come up with such report.
The report that is yet to be released by the sub-committee, according to him, has no purpose and “would only have the weight of a toilet paper.”
Bautista said the allegations against the Vice President failed to dislodge Binay from being the frontrunner in surveys made in the run-up to the 2016 elections.
“He remains as the top contender for President,” he noted.
Binay has long announced that he is gunning for the presidency in 2016.
His camp has been consistently saying that the blue ribbon hearings were politically motivated and were meant to derail his bid.
Bautista said the senators pushing the probe “have not been successful in their political objective.”
He claimed that the recommendation of the sub-committee will have no purpose because there is already a case pending before the Office of the Ombudsman against the Binay group.
‘’What is the sense of their recommendation if their recommendation is already being implemented?’’ Bautista asked.
The UNA official was referring to a plunder compliant filed by whistleblower Renato Bondal last year against the Vice President, the Makati City mayor and other officials of the city in connection with the P2.4–billion Makati City Hall Building 2.
Bautista explained that when a case is filed with the Office of the Ombudsman, the office should be allowed to do its mandate—to investigate–and no other body, including the Senate, should conduct a parallel investigation of the case.
“The Senate has no mandate to look for criminal offense, it is only allowed to investigate in aid of legislation,” he said.
But Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano dismissed Bautista’s claims and said the Senate has the authority to conduct a parallel investigation of a particular issue and even come up with its recommendation even if a complaint has been filed at the Ombudsman.
“As long as the case has not yet been filed before the Sandiganbayan, the Senate committee can still come up with its recommendation,” Cayetano added.
“My question to the camp of the Vice President is that why are they always attacking the process being conducted by the Senate, why can’t they answer the allegations directly?” the senator asked.
He said that instead of questioning the process, it would be better if Binay voluntarily opened all his bank accounts being investigated by the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) and proved that he does not own huge accounts.
Former Makati City Vice Mayor Ernesto Mercado during the sub-committee hearing on Thursday said the Vice President has bank accounts overseas.
Mercado said these bank accounts are under the name of Eduvige “Ebeng” Baloloy, whom the AMLC is yet to investigate.
The accounts include those in Citibank, Hong Kong dated March 1996 amounting to $71,481.95 (P1.9 million); HK$499,367.36 in 1994; and HK$405,200.20 in 1998.
He added that Binay failed to declare in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth or SALN in 1994 a total of P3.5 million in foreign bank accounts.
Cayetano said Mercado’s latest testimony showed that the Vice President owned huge foreign accounts as early as the 1990s.