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Binay resigns from cabinet

VICE President Jejomar Binay resigned from the Cabinet  Monday, stepping down as chairman of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council and as presidential adviser on overseas Filipino workers’ concerns.

“I hereby tender my irrevocable resignation as member of the Cabinet effective immediately,” Binay said in one-sentence letter to President Benigno Aquino III. The letter, on the official letterhead of the Office of the Vice President and dated June 22, began with “Dear Mr. President” and was signed “Respectfully yours, Jejomar C. Binay.”

In happier times. This file photo shows President Benigno Aquino III
chatting with Vice President Jejomar Binay at the 115th anniversary
of the Philippine Navy at Fort San Felipe in Cavite City.
Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa said in a statement he received the letter  Monday  afternoon from Binay’s daughter, Makati Rep. Abigail Binay, who was accompanied by Undersecretary Benjamin Martinez, the Vice President’s chief of staff.

Ochoa said he gave the letter to the President, who called up Binay to confirm his resignation.

Ochoa added that he will formalize the acceptance of the Vice President’s resignation.

Binay’s resignation  Monday  marked a final break with an administration that has grown increasingly hostile toward him.

Binay, who has long declared his intention to run for president in 2106, has been the subject of various investigations, including a long-running Senate probe and has been charged with graft before the Office of the Ombudsman. In May, the Anti-Money Laundering Council ordered the freezing of more than 200 bank accounts that it linked to Binay.

Binay’s exit comes on the heels of a Pulse Asia Research survey showing that he was the most trusted top government official, with a trust rating of 58 percent—higher than Aquino’s 54 percent.

Binay’s allies in Congress said they expected the Vice President to speak up for the people.

“Binay will keep the Aquino administration and the Cabinet on their toes,” Buhay Rep. Lito Atienza said. “Being the second highest official in the land, we expect the Vice President to be vocal about abuses in government,” Atienza said.

But Aquino’s allies, including House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., played down Binay’s resignation as coming too late.

“He should have done it earlier but it’s the proper thing and leaves him free to criticize the administration,” Belmonte said.

“Long overdue!” added Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali, a member of the ruling Liberal Party.

Negros Occidental Rep. Albee Benitez, a member of the Nationalist People’s Coalition, said Binay’s resignation would allow him to focus on his campaign.

Another LP stalwart, Caloocan City Rep. Edgar Erice, said leaving the Cabinet would now allow Binay to gather and consolidate those forces who are opposed to President Aquino and would want the good old days of traditional politics to “fight not for principles but for survival.”

Erice predicted that Binay would “now use the administration as his punching bag and hit it to his heart’s content.”

But Abakada Rep. Jonathan dela Cruz, who belongs to the independent minority bloc in the House, said Binay would not be gagged anymore and could start speaking his mind.

“He should be able to speak his mind in the thousand and one things afflicting our country and people. He should stand up and be the leader he wants people to believe he is,” Dela Cruz said.

ACT Teacher’s Rep. Antonio Tinio, however, said Binay blinked first.

“By resigning from the Cabinet, he is clearly distancing himself from President Aquino. Why has VP Binay chosen to do so? Obviously, the plunder charges looming over VP Binay have made it virtually impossible for the President to endorse him as the administration’s 2016 presidential bet,” Tinio said.

“By resigning, VP Binay has preempted the embarrassment of being repudiated as the President’s anointed successor in favor of someone else,” Tinio added.

Aquino has already said he would not endorse Binay.

In the Senate, Senator Francis Escudero said Binay’s resignation signaled the start of a string of resignations by government officials who intend to run in 2016.

Earlier, Senate President Franklin Drilon said major changes will occur in the administration as at least six Cabinet members would quit to run next year.

Escudero said Binay’s resignation should come as no surprise as political parties and candidates gear up for the 2016 general elections.

He said Binay probably quit to focus on his politcal campaign.

“I respect the VP’s decision. I just hope that the President can immediately appoint his successor, as well as for other appointed secretaries, so as not to adversely affect the government’s ability to deliver basic services,” Escudero said.

Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, who has hounded Binay with more than 20 Senate hearings on allegations of corruption, welcomed the news of the Vice President’s resignation.

“Now, there is no more inconsistency in the  tuwid na daan  (straight path) slogan of the administration,” he said.

More importantly, he said, the government can now go all out against Binay.

Trillanes was among the senators who have been actively participating in the Senate Blue Ribbon subcommittee hearings on allegations of corruption against Binay. – With Maricel V. Cruz

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