Malacañang and its standard bearer, Manuel Roxas II, traded barbs with opposition candidate Vice President Jejomar Binay Tuesday after the Senate Blue Ribbon subcommittee recommended the filing of plunder charges against Binay.
“The Senate report speaks for itself. I have nothing to add to this,” Roxas said during a campaign sortie in Antipolo, Rizal.
“The appeal of the people [is] for him to answer the charges,” he said, adding that the senators had heard all the testimony and examined all the evidence before release their partial report. “Who am I to oppose the view of the Senate?”
Clearly referring to the charges against Binay, Roxas added: “It is important that a President should not steal.”
Binay’s camp, on the other hand, said the Senate subcommittee report held nothing new, and accused Roxas’ Liberal Party of timing its release during the campaign and just before the next survey period for the opinion polls.
United Nationalist Alliance spokesperson Rico Quicho accused the Liberal Party of using the charges against Binay to divert public attention from the administration’s failure to improve the lives of the poor.
“The apparent full-court press of the Liberal Party against the vice president is a crude attempt to divert attention from its utter failure to address poverty,” he said, adding that the charges against Binay were politically motivated and aimed at pulling down the ratings of the Vice President after he topped the recent Social Weather Stations opinion poll.
“The people are already tired of this callous and failing government that we have today. It’s been six years and yet 11 million Filipino families continue to suffer from poverty, 3 million families are starving, and 10 million people are unemployed,” Quicho said.
But presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the government’s dole program, the conditional cash transfer, has lifted 1.5 million families or over 7.7 million Filipinos out of poverty.
“Mr. Vice President, while the government was addressing poverty, where have you been in the last five years before you started attacking the President?” Lacierda said.
“Now that the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee has forwarded its report to the Ombudsman on corruption allegations against you, maybe you will no longer say this is all politics. Maybe you’d like to improve your script,” he said in Filipino.
A spokesman for Roxas, Akbayan Rep. Barry Gutierrez, said Binay should just explain himself before the Ombudsman.
“No matter how long the procession may be, corrupt people will still end up in jail. Maybe this is the reason why the Binays do not want to attend the Senate probe,” Gutierrez said.
But Binay spokesman Joey Salgado said that after more than a year and 25 public hearings, the subcommittee fell back on false accusations, hearsay and erroneous conclusions.
He insisted that the subcommittee did not have the competence or the authority to determine criminal liability.
“And clearly, the investigations were made in aid of demolition, not legislation,” Salgado said.
He said that Binay has consistently asked his accusers to take their allegations to court, but the accusers would not allow it because, in a court of law, false witnesses are not allowed to testify and perjury is punished, and not rewarded.
“In a court of law, conjectures, insinuations and hearsay are thrown out. But since none of them took up the challenge, the Vice President himself has brought the matter before the courts and we look forward to bringing these accusers to the witness stand,” he said.
Salgado said that the subcommittee’s partial report will be thrown out in its entirety, for relying on perjured testimony and hearsay from tainted witnesses.
He also said the subcommittee relied on incorrect methods to conclude that Makati City Hall Building II was overpriced.
“All these methods… rely on CFA [construction floor area] to arrive at the project cost per square meter—an approach that the Supreme Court has ruled unreliable and erroneous in determining overpricing. The comparison, said the Supreme Court, must be based on the actual price of the item purchased at the time the item is actually purchased,” he said.
He said that even Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson had testified before the subcommittee that a building’s price cannot actually be determined by merely using the floor area, but this testimony was not even mentioned in the partial report.
The Senate subcommittee earlier said there was “plunder through grand conspiracy” in the overpricing of the Makati City Hall building by at least P1.12 billion.
The panel also alleged that other structures in Makati were also overpriced and questioned several deals that Binay approved when he was still mayor of Makati.
But Salgado said these allegations were nothing new.
“If you check your files last year that was the same report released to media,” he said.
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