Even Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel 3rd has admitted that former Makati City Vice Mayor Ernesto Mercado has no documentary evidence to support his claim that Vice President Jejomar Binay allegedly received kickbacks from a deal between the Boy Scouts of the Philippines (BSP) and property developer Alphaland Corp.
This was noted on Sunday by lawyer Rico Paolo Quicho, the Vice President’s spokesman on political affairs, referring to Pimentel’s interview on radio station dzMM last Thursday where the senator said Mercado was not able to present any documentary evidence to substantiate his allegations against the Vice President.
Pimentel heads the Senate blue ribbon sub-committee investigating alleged anomalies supposedly involving the Vice President.
Quicho said it was unfair for Mercado to say that the Vice President has anything to do with the venture as the BSP had approved a board resolution that authorized Mercado to make transactions on behalf of the organization.
What was unfortunate was how the members of the sub-committee were allowing Mercado to pin the blame on the Vice President and instead seemed to be coordinating with Binay’s detractors, Quicho noted in an interview after Thursday’s Senate hearing.
In the interview, Binay’s spokesman said Pimentel took note of observations that all Mercado had were mere words and that Alphaland had already come out with a statement saying it was Mercado whom they dealt with the whole time and that it was actually Mercado who was hinting for kickbacks.
The senator conceded that they will have to hear the side of Alphaland in the next hearing, Quicho said.
Alphaland president and lawyer Mario Oreta had written Mercado to refute the latter’s claims of anomalies in the BSP-Alphaland deal and said it was actually Mercado who wanted kickbacks.
“I am sure you will remember that you made less than subtle hints that some ‘benefits’ were due to you for agreeing to conclude this project, and I am sure that you will also remember what I explained to you that Alphaland was a joint-venture company with the Ashmore Group, and that every transaction was closely scrutinized by Ashmore,” Oreta said in his letter to Mercado.
“Thus, it was impossible for Alphaland to agree to give you any such ‘benefits,”’ he added.
Quicho said Pimentel also refused to give a straight answer and parried questions by Karen Davila who asked if he could say that the Vice President really was involved, based on everything that Mercado has said.
Moreover, he added, the senator also admitted that the Senate hearing has already strayed far from its original intent to investigate supposed anomalies in the construction of the Makati City Hall Building 2 as he conceded that the sub-committee is yet to come out with any report of its findings after 13 hearings.
Malacanang just shrugged off fresh allegations of graft against the Vice President in connection with supposed kickbacks he got from the land deal between BSP and Alphaland.
In an interview, Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. also on Sunday said President Benigno Aquino 3rd has shown no real interest in keeping tabs of the new charges against Binay, noting that the President hardly finds time to even follow hearings of the Senate blue ribbon sub-committee investigating the Vice President.
“Regarding the investigation by the Senate and Congress, we think of it as moves by a separate and co-equal branch of government and our focus is not on investigations but on implementing reforms,” Coloma said.
The Palace official maintained that Aquino’s stand on the issue remains the same and judgment will be withheld until the charges have been verified.
“On another occasion, the President had been asked about these particular aspects of the investigation and he answered them already,” Coloma said.
Meanwhile, the Vice President vowed to stand his ground against his detractors who have been peddling lies to destroy him and his family.
At the same time, he said he and his son and Makati City Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay are ready to be arrested on orders of the Senate blue ribbon committee for their continued refusal to appear at hearings of the blue ribbon sub-committee headed Sen. Aquilino Pimentel 3rd, the Vice President Binay told reporters in an interview during the Citizen’s Launch of Movement for National Discipline (Kilos Kaayusan) at the Rizal Park (Luneta) in Manila last Saturday.
A petition filed by Mayor Binay’s camp for the sub-committee to provide advance copies of questions to be asked by the senators, in keeping with Senate rules and the rights of those being summoned to the hearings, has been left in the back burner.
In their request, the mayor’s lawyer, Claro Certeza, cited a petition filed before the Supreme Court by former Socio-economic Planning Secretary Romulo Neri against the Senate blue ribbon committee in 2008 wherein the SC recognized that resource persons are entitled to know in advance the questions that will be asked of them by the committee.
The Vice President said he and his family will not violate the law but noted how their detractors are abusing the law.
With FERNAN MARASIGAN