VICE President Jejomar Binay must now man up and answer point-by-point all the charges being leveled against him.
After stopping his men from testifying before a subcommittee of the Senate blue ribbon committee, he could no longer argue that the Senate probe that resulted in a recommendation to file plunder charges against him was one-sided. Neither would full credence be given to his frequent contention that all of the charges are politically motivated. Further, he shouldn’t use his showing in surveys as justification to stonewall the issues.
The sub-committee report was officially adopted as a full report of the Senate blue ribbon committee after it was signed by 10 out of 17 members of the mother committee. The recommendation was based on the alleged overpricing of the Makati City Hall Building 2 by up to P1.3 billion while Binay was still the city mayor.
Sure, Binay, his son and namesake who succeeded him as Makati City mayor, and his political leaders all denied the alleged overpricing but mere denial wouldn’t wash – not after their claims of “world-class and green building” were torn to shreds by the physical evidence. It’s neither world class nor green, so the Binay camp will have to look for other justification in paying the contractor way above the standard cost of P35,000 per square meter for such kind of building construction as testified by technical experts.
Binay’s political spokesman, Rico Quicho, Binay’s political spokesman, said in a statement that the “supposed” findings and recommendations of the “hostile and highly partisan investigation” conducted by the sub-committee were conveniently based on “hasty conclusions, inadmissible evidence and malicious narrative of defeated local politicians.”
The denials would have carried more weight if they contained detailed explanations of expenses. At a previous subcommittee hearing, a Makati official said the P350 million spent for the transfer of one department of the Makati city government to the new city hall cum parking lot was responsible for the added cost. That official was asked to bring records in the next hearing about that expense. Certainly, the Binay camp couldn’t merely shrug off as “malicious” and “hasty” the claim of one senator that the P350 million spent just to transfer one department to a new building was “huge and unheard of.”
The Makati official agreed to bring the records but she never did because that hearing was the last one to be attended by the Binay camp. To this day, Binay’s men had kept quiet about this revelation at the subcommittee hearing.
Oh yes, Vice President Binay did itemize his assets and liabilities in a bid to answer questions about the increases in his net worth. I note that Binay had included among his income the P13,541,711 excess contributions he had received in his 2010 campaign for the vice presidency. He said that he spent only P217,938,289 out of the P231,480,000 in total contributions given him in that campaign.
This raises the question: may unspent campaign contributions be considered as income? Or should they be considered donations and therefore subject to a higher tax rate? But more than the rates, the personal ownership of unspent campaign contributions by a candidate raises moral issues. If we are to mature politically, we should put a lid on the misuse of campaign funds.
I believe there should be a law prohibiting candidates from pocketing campaign contributions. This may take some doing to implement as Filipino candidates generally don’t report their actual expenses. Some candidates also run “for the fund of it.” I’ve heard rumors of some senatorial candidates who were even able to buy a new house after the elections! And how about the supposedly serious candidates who withdraw before Election Day? Oh well, as they say, these candidates may have withdrawn but they have also made deposits.
In August 2013, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. of Illinois, son of the famous human rights leader, was sentenced to 30 months in jail for misuse of campaign funds totaling $750,000 from 2005 to 2012 on luxuries, including a Rolex watch. Jackson and his wife admitted that among their purchases were $60,000 at Antiques of Nevada, where Jackson bought two hats belonging to the late singer Michael Jackson costing more than $8,000; a $5,000 football signed by US presidents; and memorabilia involving the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and martial artist Bruce Lee.
The Jacksons also used campaign funds to purchase Blu-Ray DVD players from Best Buy, dresses and jewelry from a small boutique and fur capes and parkas from a Beverly Hills, California, furrier.
We should have a law on campaign contributions like that in the US and then, have a Jackson in Munti.