IT was not former Makati City Vice Mayor Ernesto Mercado who took photos of a vast estate in Rosario, Batangas which he claimed to be owned by Vice President Jejomar Binay but a graphic artist who works for Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, a flight plan from the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) showed.
“He (Mercado) was lying when he said [before the Senate Blue Ribbon sub-committee]that he was there,” said JV Bautista, secretary general of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) in an interview with ANC television.
The flight plan showed that the helicopter took off at 12:30 p.m. on October 2. The passengers include Dexter Estacio, a graphic designer of Cayetano and two others.
“The only one we were able to identify is Dexter Estacio. Dexter Estacio is a graphic artist who works for Alan Peter Cayetano. He works at the Taguig City Hall. He is a graphic artist of Alan Peter Cayetano. He was probably the one making graphic illustrations about the house. So they had a graphic artist there,” Bautista noted.
The UNA official said they traced the ownership of the helicopter used to conduct an aerial survey of the Batangas estate to Buddy Zamora and Eric Gutierrez, a business partner of Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas 2nd and Rep. Edgar Erice of Caloocan, respectively.
Bautista said these personalities were behind the so-called “Oplan SN16” or Operation Plan Stop Nognog in 2016, which he described as “a well-funded and well-organized conspiracy to destroy the chances of Vice President Binay to become the next President in 2016.”
“These things that we are hearing in the [Senate] sub-committee, these are all part of a conspiracy,” Bautista added.
Asked if President Benigno Aquino 3rd is aware of the plot, Bautista said: “I can’t say that. This conspiracy goes all the way up only to Mar Roxas, only to Mar Roxas.”
Bautista claimed that Zamora is providing the funds for campaign against Binay.
He said Cayetano, Sen. Antonio Trillanes 4th and Mercado belong to the same political party.
“This is what triggered our curiosity. We have been hearing about the conspiracy, but how to prove it? It took a while for us to be able to put the pieces of the puzzle together,” Bautista said.
Trillanes dismissed Bautista’s claims as absurd and accused the UNA official of trying to divert the attention of the public from the real issue.
The senator added that he sees no sense in Bautista’s conspiracy theory that the Liberal Party is controlling the flow of the Senate investigation because he and Cayetano are members of the Nacionalista Party (NP).
He noted that the ownership of the helicopter is a non-issue because the real issue is the supposed involvement of the vice president and the members of his family in the misuse of public funds.
Malacanang also on Monday said Roxas and the other personalities named by Bautista should answer the allegations.
Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr., in a text message to The Manila Times, fended off claims by some sectors that they could be behind the “smear” campaign against Binay and his family.
“I think this is best explained by those directly concerned. Our office has no involvement in such activities,” Coloma stressed.
Over the weekend, political analyst Ramon Casiple and retired Archbishop Oscar Cruz accused Malacanang and the Liberal Party of concocting the “drama” in the Senate where the Blue Ribbon Committee has been investigating the alleged overpricing of the Makati City Hall building 2 and the vast agricultural and fowl farm in Rosario town in Batangas.
Casiple said the probe aims to weaken Binay, perceived to be the most formidable candidate in the next presidential polls.
Cruz, on the other hand, said the Senate investigation is just a “drama.”
Senate President pro-tempore Ralph Recto, a member of the LP, said he is not aware of any smear campaign against the vice President.
“I wouldn’t know any of that (demolition job). I’m part of LP but I’m not part of any of that,” he told reporters after the Senate Finance Committee hearing on the proposed 2015 budget of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).
WITH JEFFERSON ANTIPORDA