President Benigno Aquino 3rd did not ask the Senate blue ribbon subcommittee to end its inquiry into the allegations against Vice President Jejomar Binay, Malacañang said on Wednesday.
“We wish to correct the report [that states]that the President wanted the Senate investigation on Vice President Binay stopped. For the record, [what]the President [did was to relay]to the Senate President the request of the Vice President,” Palace spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said in a statement.
Lacierda said before Aquino conveyed Binay’s request to Senate President Franklin Drilon, he informed the Vice President that the senators cannot be dictated on since the Senate is composed of 24 “separate kingdoms.”
Lacierda also said Aquino did not say he asked Drilon to end the Senate probe during his interview with Philippine media at the end of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders’ Summit in China.
“He also stated that he respects the co-equal branch and that the senators are fully aware of their roles as lawmakers mindful of pending legislation, in addition to their corollary responsibility of conducting investigations. Thus, at no time in the media briefing did the President mention that he wanted the investigation stopped,” Lacierda said.
Drilon earlier revealed that Aquino had relayed Binay’s request but denied the President was asking for a favor and exerting pressure.
On Tuesday night, Aquino called on the blue ribbon committee to present all evidence against the Vice President immediately instead of presenting it piecemeal, so that those liable could be charged and those innocent could already be cleared.
“Does it have to be in dribs and drabs? Can we not have the whole list? Is the proof really there? Is it substantial proof or what-have-you?” Aquino said.
A Senate panel is investigating the alleged overpricing of the Makati City Hall Building 2 and other irregularities, such as the rigging of infrastructure contracts of the Makati government when Binay was mayor.
The probe has since been expanded to include a 350-hectare estate in Rosario, Batangas, allegedly owned by Binay.
The Vice President has repeatedly denied allegations against him, claiming his critics who have testified before the Senate subcommittee have not presented evidence that would stand in court.
He described the allegations as part of a smear job to diminish his chances in the 2016 presidential elections.
Sen. Aquilino Pimentel 3rd, chairman of the blue ribbon subcommittee, said Aquino is setting a bad precedent by asking the Senate blue ribbon committee to speed up its investigation of corruption allegations against Binay.
Pimentel said he is wondering if the President would still advise the committee to speed up, terminate the investigation, or even instruct the committee how to go about its work, if the one under investigation is a cabinet secretary or someone closely identified with the administration.
“That would be a dangerous precedent and could be misconstrued as interference with a co-equal branch of government,” Pimentel said.
Instead of rushing the subcommittee, the President should instead order the Department of Justice (DOJ) to expedite its investigation on Binay, he said.
Pimentel said the “unfriendly and uncooperative” behavior of those being investigated is delaying the inquiry.
He said Makati officials refuse to attend the hearings despite subpoenas issued to them, and some resource persons were lying when they testified.
“Imagine local government units [LGU] officials defying the Senate? Should we allow this to happen at all, much more continue? We will have to uphold the power and authority of the Senate and recommend soon some disciplinary measures on some personalities,” Pimentel said.
Asked how long he expects the hearings to last, he said he intends to conduct at least four to five more hearings and end the investigation by February, but needs to consult the other members of the committee first.
Drilon said the Senate should listen to the President’s appeal to speed up the proceedings, but stressed that eventually it is the subcommittee chairman and members who will decide if it has enough evidence against Binay.
On Wednesday, United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) interim president Tobias Tiangco thanked the President for asking the Senate blue ribbon sub-committee to speed up its inquiry.
Just the same, Tiangco doubts if the President’s intercession will stop pro-administration senators Antonio Trillanes 4th, Alan Peter Cayetano and Pimentel from continuing their tirades against Binay.
“I thank the President for pointing the Senate in the right direction,” Tiangco said in a radio interview. “But that will not prevent the three senators [from bashing Binay]because they are getting free TV and radio time. They don’t have to pay for commercials anymore in smearing the Vice President.”
He said the Vice President should answer the charges in court and not in the obviously biased blue ribbon subcommittee.
Tiangco cited a recent statement of Trillanes that Binay should be jailed.
“Is asking for someone to be jailed in aid of legislation?” he said.
The congressman wondered why in the 12 hearings conducted by the sub-committee, only Trillanes, Cayetano and Pimentel were taking turns in presiding over the inquiry.
“Isn’t it questionable that only the three senators kept attending the hearings and the other 17 senators refused to take part?” he said.