ALLIES of Interior and Local Governments Secretary Manuel Roxas II, the presumptive standard bearer for the ruling Liberal Party in 2016, are scrambling to find grounds to unseat Vice President Jejomar Binay through impeachment, a move that Binay’s allies in the House have vowed to block.
Leading the charge is Caloocan Rep. Edgar Erice, who had earlier campaigned for a term extension for President Benigno Aquino III.
House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., also with the LP, cautioned the anti-Binay forces against initiating impeachment proceedings against the Vice President, saying Congress had more important things to do.
“I will convince Erice not to file. The House has other priorities. We cannot be distracted,” Belmonte told the Manila Standard.
“I’m against involving the House in that. We have other priorities. In the House, we will not investigate the VP,” said Belmonte, vice chairman of the Liberal Party.
The Nationalist People’s Coalition, led by Valenzuela City Rep. Sherwin Gatchalian, said they would not support the move for the same reason.
“For one, Congress should immediately act on President Aquino’s request for emergency powers to address the looming power shortage in Luzon next year. The joint congressional resolution should come out before the end of October and failure to do so will affect the power situation,” Gatchalian said.
United Nationalist Alliance interim president and Navotas Rep. Toby Tiangco said the impeachment was part of an LP-Nacionalista Party conspiracy called Oplan Nognog to stop Binay from becoming the next President.
Erice’s renewed call for an impeachment was buoyed by the recent pronouncements made by Justice Secretary Leila de Lima that the vice president was not immune from suit.
Erice, an LP party whip, brushed aside Belmonte’s observation that Binay could only be impeached for acts committed while he was vice president.
“I see two grounds. Based on former Makati vice mayor Ernesto Mercado’s testimony before the Senate, Binay used the proceeds from corruption in Makati parking building to finance his campaign in the 2010 elections. That’s betrayal of public trust,” Erice said.
Another possible ground, he said, was the absence of the Tagaytay property from Binay’s statement of assets liabilities and net worth in 2008 and 2009 when it was sold in 2012.
“It was not in his SALN, the SALN was wrong and the misdeclared SALN was the same ground that was used in ousting then Chief Justice Renato Corona,” Erice said.
Told that these alleged acts were committed before Binay became vice president, Erice said: “That’s your opinion.”
He added that he would wait for the committee report of the Senate Blue Ribbon sub-committee, where NP Senators Alan Peter Cayetano and Antonio Trillanes IV were leading the attack against Binay.
Erice said the Liberals, with 109 House seats, have the numbers to immediately transmit the impeachment complaint to the Senate without having to go through the deliberations in the House committee on justice headed by another Liberal, Iloilo City Rep. Niel Tupas Jr.
Erice said they would only need 97 signatures to transmit the impeachment complaint to the Senate and compel the Senate to convene itself into an impeachment court.
“As it stands, we already have the numbers. We will get more once Binay’s popularity rating continues to decline. We will get more than 100 signatures,” he said.
But Gatchalian said the impeachment was similar to the “selective kind of justice” being practiced by the administration against the vice president.
“This is very evident in the way the Department of Justice slowed down its probe of the pork barrel scam after three opposition senators have been jailed. We have yet to see administration allies being charged in court for the misuse of their Priority Development Assistance Fund,” Gatchalian said.
Gatchalian also pointed out the kid gloves treatment by Malacanang on National Police Director-General Alan Purisima after he was accused of unexplained wealth and not being truthful in his SALN.
He said Purisima’s house in Nueva Ecija province and his luxury vehicles were exposed in the media much earlier than the supposed Binay farm in Rosario, Batangas, and yet, no action was taken by the DOJ and National Bureau of Investigation on the allegations of unexplained wealth against the police chief.
“The DOJ was very fast in directing the NBI to investigate the allegations against the vice president, even ahead of the Senate Blue Ribbon sub-committee, which has yet to wrap up its inquiry and come out with a report,” Gatchalian said.
Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga, Jr., a National Unity Party member, said any impeachment case should be backed by solid evidence.
Kabataan party-list Rep. Terry Ridon of the Makabayan Bloc also urged Erice to present solid evidence to pin down Binay.
“He (Erice) should pull the trigger if he really has the goods against Binay instead of walking around town with threats [of impeachment],” Ridon said.
Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, who has also declared her intention to run for president in 2016, said Binay’s continued refusal to defend himself before the Senate might be seen by the public as “an implied admission of guilt.”
She added that Binay’s tormentors in the Senate cannot use the hearing to humiliate or otherwise prosecute him, because the Constitution requires senators to respect the rights of persons appearing in, or affected, by such inquiries.
“I do not approve of this curious tendency to be so taciturn in the face of such damaging charges against his moral character,” said Santiago in a speech that she dubbed “The Curious Case of the Taciturn Vice-President,” during the Women’s Celebration of Life and Faith Convention at the Philippine Christian University in Manila.
She said it appears Binay is contented in defending himself by delivering speeches accusing his enemies of lying.
“That is not sufficient,” said Santiago who said the Vice President must present his own evidence.
She cited the Supreme Court pronouncement that “the natural instinct of man compels him to resist an unfounded claim or imputation and defend himself, and that it is totally against our human nature to just remain reticent and say nothing in the face of false accusations.”
The Vice President has consistently refused to attend the Senate hearings, but promised to make a detailed defense before the Office of the Ombudsman, where he is facing plunder and other criminal charges. – With Macon Ramos-Araneta
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