Senator Antonio Trillanes IV on Friday accused Communications Secretary Herminio “Sonny” Coloma as “a secret ally” of Vice President Jejomar Binay, who is facing investigation by the Department of Justice on charges of corruption.
Trillanes said it was Coloma who arranged the meeting between President Benigno Aquino III and Binay after the latter, in an open forum, criticized the Aquino administration’s controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program, several acts under which have already been declared as unconstitutional.
Binay had lamented that the administration as being “selective” in targeting him but has been treating Philippine National Police chief director general Alan Purisima with kid gloves.
Trillanes said Coloma and Binay were allies and it was the Palace official who was behind the Noy-Bi push during the 2010 presidential polls and is actually supporting the Vice President quietly.
“It (the meeting) was arranged by Secretary Coloma, who has long been an ally of Vice President Binay. He is part of the NoyBi group so he arranged the meeting,” Trillanes said without elaborating.
But Coloma flatly denied the accusation.
“I would like to state that I have no involvement in the meeting between the President and the Vice President on October 14. I did not prepare or issue any press release regarding the meeting,” Coloma said.
“On the days after the meeting, I simply answered questions from Malacañang reporters pertaining to the meeting as part of my official duties,” the Palace official added.
Trillanes said that during the three-hour meeting, Binay practically “begged” Aquino to stop the Department of Justice from investigating corruption charges against him.
Trillanes claimed that Binay sent feelers to the President because he was already getting overwhelmed by allegations that he received kickbacks from the reportedly overpriced Makati City Hall car park Building II and that he owned a 350-hectare property in Batangas.
“The Vice President wanted to know if he could use his connection so that the President could influence Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to discontinue the probe,” the senator said.
Trillanes said Binay left empty-handed as he failed to convince the President to intervene.
But Binay’s spokesman for political affairs, Cavite Gov. Jonvic Remulla, denied the Trillanes’ claims.
“As far as I know, they did not talk about it (DOJ probe). The meeting focused on the earlier remarks of the Vice President,” Remulla said.
“Senator Trillanes should start answering questions about his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth before making up stories. How can the Vice President ask the President to stop a probe that hasn’t started at that time?” Remulla added.
Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte refused to confirm or deny the claim of Trillanes.
“We are not privy to the discussion between the two gentlemen,” Valte said.
Binay, meanwhile, said the DoJ probe directed against him “is all part of the script that really, by all means, this is their operation—Operation Anybody but Binay.”
He categorically pointed to Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II - the presumptive presidential candidate of the Liberal Party - as having a hand in the demolition job against him.
Binay also questioned de Lima’s announcement that she will investigate him upon the request of the Senate.
“I have fought many times. There were many instances that the law was broken, and I will not allow this. The only reason I can be removed from office, among others, would be for the violation of the Constitution during my term as Vice President. That is very clear,” Binay said.
The United Nationalist Alliance, meanwhile, told De Lima to stop name-dropping Aquino to cover up her witchhunt of the Binays in cahoots with the ruling Liberal Party and its “attack dogs.”
UNA interim president and Navotas Rep. Toby Tiangco assailed De Lima’s boasting that only President Aquino or the Ombudsman can order her to stop her probe of Binay, his family and other personalities mentioned by Senate blue ribbon sub-committee in its ongoing probe.
Tiangco said by using the name of the President, De Lima has put the country’s chief executive on the spot since people will now think he has ordered the Justice Secretary not to pursue the investigation into the involvement of LP officials and members in several major controversies, among them the Napoles scam and the shakedown of Inekon, a supplier for the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) as revealed by the former Czech ambassador.
“The public cannot help but conclude that it was the President who ordered a stop in the investigation of the $30 million extort try involving MRT officials during the watch of Mar Roxas as Transportation Secretary, or the involvement of Liberal Party members in the PDAF scam,” he added.
He also described De Lima’s probe as “a fishing expedition in aid of publicity,” and linked it to the Secretary’s ambition to run for the Senate in 2016.
“We would have expected better behavior from any regular lawyer, let alone the Secretary of Justice. Is it really that important to her to get into Mar Roxas’ senatorial ticket in 2016?” Tiangco added.
UNA interim secretary general lawyer Atty. JV Bautista, for his part, called De Lima an “Atribida.”
“She is an over-eager political wanna-be bureaucrat with no jurisdiction to investigate the Vice President,” Bautista said.
“DOJ Secretary de Lima belongs to the Executive Branch of government. The Vice President, therefore, is her superior and she is not possessed with power or authority to order an investigation against her superior, in the same manner that she cannot order the investigation of the President,” Bautista explained.
Bautista said the DOJ clearly has no jurisdiction to conduct an investigation over any impeachable official.
“That power belongs exclusively to the Ombudsman. De Lima should read her Administrative Code and the Ombudsman Law to understand this very basic rule on exclusive jurisdiction,” he said.
“Besides, why is she initiating the investigation motu propio? There is no order or instruction from the President, nor is there any request from the Ombudsman. There is also no formal complaint before her office to give her any justification to initiate a criminal investigation,” Bautista said.
De Lima, however, said Binay
should “welcome and cooperate” with the investigation in connection with the allegations of corruption during his term as Makati City Mayor.
“Rather than question the Department’s jurisdiction and priorities, the Vice President should instead directly confront the allegations on the systemic corruption of Makati’s procurement system,” De Lima said, in her speech at the 5th MCLE Accredited National Convention for Public Attorneys at the Manila Hotel.
De Lima also took potshots at Bautista for claiming that the DOJ has no jurisdiction to conduct an investigation and by doing so, the DOJ chief is courting a lawsuit for her “abusive and unlawful acts”.
“The Vice President’s men, with all the resources at their command, have only one thing to worry about: to clear their principal from all the accusations leveled against him,” said.
According to De Lima, Binay’s men have said everything except one: the truth.
“They are expected to do only one thing – to clear the name of the Vice-President and we ask, can they prove that all the witnesses of the Vice President are lying? We are not seeing that. If they are not able to do that, they should not take out their frustration on the DOJ. They should not tell us how to do our job,” she said.
“As I said before, and I say again now, this is all part of our job. There is only one DOJ. No other agency in the entire government bureaucracy is expected to do our work for us. During those times when our motives or persuasions are questioned and challenged, like now, our only answer is a clear conscience and the moral conviction to do the right thing and give justice to every person,” she added.
De Lima earlier directed the National Bureau of Investigation to create a five-member team to conduct the fact-finding investigation.
She said there would be no recommendation or a transmittal letter but every finding and evidence gathered would be forwarded to the Ombudsman for evaluation.
De Lima said the Ombudsman has the power to determine whether Binay has committed an impeachable offense.
Besides, De Lima stressed that Binay was not immune from investigation and the DOJ’s fact finding probe was not only focused on Binay but to his family who has no immunity, as well as private contractors and all Makati and Commission on Audit Officials.
Binay was accused of pocketing kickbacks for the overpriced parking building and owning hundreds of hectares of land in Batangas, which includes an air-conditioned piggery.
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