Get real
Philippine Daily Inquirer, 15 November 2014


Can someone please tell me why President Aquino orders a Cabinet member, Health Secretary Enrique Ona, to go on leave so he can prepare his answers to questions about a vaccine purchase where he is suspected of some kind of corrupt practice, yet refuses to do the same to another Cabinet member, Vice President and Housing Secretary Jojo Binay, who is under investigation for graft and corruption and unexplained wealth involving far greater amounts?

In Ona’s case, his leave will supposedly give him the time necessary to prepare the answers, which he will not have if he is working full-time as health secretary. Well, isn’t it obvious that even more so, Binay also needs some downtime? Because he keeps saying that he’s been too busy going around the country distributing housing or land titles, and cannot make time to answer questions that the Senate has for him, much less prepare for a debate with Sen. Antonio Trillanes that he himself
had initiated?

Ona will reportedly be on leave for a month. Why isn’t Binay being given the same treatment? Especially since the stakes are so much higher in his case, because he wants to be president?

Binay’s going on leave for a month can actually be considered a case of coddling, because aside from the unexplained wealth/corruption issue against him, he has criticized the Aquino administration, of which he is a member. That should be enough reason for the President to firmly show him the door, but he hasn’t done so—and instead allows him to give out goodies (the land and housing titles), which the President should be giving out, as his predecessors had done.

Binay says he hasn’t ever criticized the President himself, so he still considers himself an Aquino loyalist, but that’s putting too fine a point on the matter. Ask the average Juan and Juana de la Cruz, and they will tell you different. In fact, this stance of Binay’s further reinforces the perception that he isn’t an “isang salita” kind of person, which started when, in the course of the Senate investigation, he made statements and then didn’t keep his word—promising to attend if it was the mother blue ribbon committee that invited him (it did, he didn’t); promising to answer the charges against him (he made a campaign speech instead); and promising to debate with Trillanes over the issue (we all know what he did).

Is P-Noy being soft on Binay? If, as reported after his one-on-one with the Vice President, P-Noy told his close-ins that he didn’t think Binay was the right person to succeed him, why has he acted in this wishy-washy manner?  Is the Samar group (reportedly the Palace faction that masterminded the “Noy-Bi” combination in 2010) behind this?

Mr. President, if you don’t want Binay to succeed you, please get your act together.

Then there’s the matter of what constitutes “proof.” Binay’s supporters assert that photographs of him and his wife escorting people around and participating in group pictures in what is being called “Hacienda Binay” do not constitute “proof” that he has anything to do with the property. Maybe they are right. But when taken together with other pieces of evidence that in themselves may not constitute proof, you end up with a tapestry that is hard to tear apart.

What other pieces of evidence? Well, to name a few, there’s the testimony of the youngest Binay, who innocently posted on the Internet pictures that were taken at “our place in Batangas” (out of the mouths of babes); there’s the story of long-time employees at the hacienda who consider Binay their employer, even talking about wages that have never been increased; there are the characters formally connected to the place who are also closely connected with the Binays; there is the testimony of people in the barangay, who can tell you where the “Binay place” is; and, of course, there is the testimony of former Makati vice mayor Ernesto Mercado, which in legal circles is considered better than eyewitness evidence because it is testimony against self-interest (the man was associated with Binay for over 18 years).

On the other hand, there is also the matter of some loose ends that have to be tied up.

Laureano Gregorio is a character who looms large in the story, both as buyer of Binay’s piggery and as seller to Antonio Tiu of a property of 145 hectares or 350 hectares (depending on who is telling the story). He has not yet put in an appearance in the Senate. I hope he has been invited.

Then there is Gerry Limlingan, the fellow who Binay has described as a close friend, who has captured P1.3 billion worth of contracts with Makati. I’d certainly like to know how he did that. The National Bureau of Investigation has been asked to track him down. Why not ask the NBI to track down Gregorio, too? These two characters seem to have disappeared from the face of the earth. If they have nothing to hide, why the disappearing acts?

The investigation of the Senate blue ribbon subcommittee should not be stopped until we get the whole story. Not because, as Palace spokesperson Edwin Lacierda seems to imply, the Senate cannot trust the Office of the Ombudsman and the NBI to do the job. And not because, as Sen. Nancy Binay insists, the court is the only place where the issue can be resolved.

But because those entities are, from experience, going to take their own sweet time about it. And time is what the Filipino people do not have. They are going to the polls in 2016, and the information that the Senate investigation provides them about the presidential candidates (Binay is the only declared candidate, but Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano and Trillanes seem to be hopefuls—their behavior can also be judged) will be invaluable.