THE Senate investigation of alleged anomalies committed by Vice President Jejomar Binay and members of his family is nothing but a “drama” and a “strategy” concocted by Malacañang and the Liberal Party (LP) to weaken the administration’s most formidable opponent in the 2016 elections, according to a renowned political analyst and a retired Catholic bishop.
In separate interviews with The Manila Times, Ramon Casiple and former Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz both see the hands of the Palace and the LP as the puppet masters dictating the flow of the Senate blue ribbon committee’s inquiry into alleged overpricing of the Makati City Hall Building 2 and the supposed 35-hectare farm owned by the Binays in Rosario, Batangas.
“The drama is Malacañang-fueled. It too shall pass away,” Cruz said. He likened the Senate probe to previous controversies that ended up “nowhere.”
Short of calling the probe a farce, the prelate said the public should sit back and enjoy the show.
“My advice to [the]people: Enjoy it till its ending, which is neither here nor there,” Cruz added.
Casiple, a political analyst, said there is no doubt that the Aquino administration is behind the attacks on Binay, judging from the timing of the probe and the line of questioning by the Senate panel members.
While senators Alan Peter Cayetano, Antonio Trillanes 4th and Aquilino Pimentel 3rd are not LP members, Casiple said they are allies of the ruling administration party.
“It [probe]is certainly within the 2016 presidential election context. What you are seeing is the strategy toward strengthening of the winning hand of the administration candidate,” Casiple noted.
When asked if he could categorically say the LP is behind the “drama” involving Binay, he replied, “None other. Unless may sumasakay [somebody is hitching a ride].”
Sought by The Times for comment, Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said while some sectors may offer differing views on the conduct of the Senate probe, Malacañang will respect moves of the Senate.
“We respect the processes of the Senate as a separate and co-equal body,” Coloma added.
President Benigno Aquino 3rd earlier told reporters in an interview in Bali, Indonesia, that he respects Binay as a “friend” and a “senior” who is “the best judge as to what he has to do.”
“At the end of the day, I really believe that the truth will come out. Anybody and everybody who knows and who has personal knowledge of the issue should help contribute to ferreting the truth [out],” the President said.
He added that he was not interested in the investigation of the alleged overpricing of the Makati City Hall Building 2 or Binay’s alleged farm in Batangas province.
When asked if he would advice Binay to appear before the Senate, Aquino said like his mother, the late former President Corazon Aquino, he does not give “unsolicited advice.”
“Well, the Vice President is my senior in public service, he’s senior also chronologically . . . He is an astute politician, he’s a lawyer. He’s older. He should know what should be done,” he added.
Aquino said he would give Binay “the respect and courtesy due his office and as a friend.”
“He will be the best judge as to what he has to do,” he added.
The Vice President “is entitled to due process, perhaps in a forum that is proper,” Aquino said.
“I’m not saying that the Senate is not a proper forum. That is one of the forums that is available to him. And . . . when I force him to explain to me, at this point in time, allegations [they merely are]. I will wait,” the President added.
According to him, getting the facts straight is principally the job of the Ombudsman.
“But, perhaps other departments [having]relevant information will start giving me established facts. At that point in time, then I guess that would be the proper time to inquire from him,” he said. Referring to Binay.
Cavite Gov. Jonvic Remulla, Binay’s spokesman on political concerns, said detractors of the Vice President have started mobilizing other government resources in their desperate attempt to pin him down.
According to Remulla, the Department of Justice (DOJ), National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) have joined the fray.
Last week, Julia Bacay-Abad, AMLC executive director, confirmed that the government is monitoring “possible money-laundering offenses” in connection with the Senate inquiry into the allegedly overpriced Makati City Hall Building 2.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima last week said the allegations against Binay have caught the “interest” of the DOJ and the agency is considering investigating the charges.
De Lima admitted ordering the NBI on Friday to locate a former staff of the Vice President who allegedly received the former Makati City mayor’s kickbacks.
“His opponents are desperate. The impending crisis of the gross violation of the Constitution brought about by the DAP [Disbursement Acceleration Program] has everyone running scared,” Remulla told The Manila Times in a text message.
Malacanang also earlier dared critics of the Vice President to prove allegations that he got kickbacks from the construction of the controversial building and that his family owns a vast estate in Batangas.
But Palace spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the government is not using any of its resources in what appears to be an effort to reveal the Binays’ supposedly undeclared wealth.
WITH FERNAN MARASIGAN