Get real
Philippine Daily Inquirer, 23 August 2014


The favourite defense of politicians to charges against them is that they are “politically motivated.” And therefore not to be given credence. Correction: The favorite defense of politicians to charges against them, especially when they cannot answer the charges, is that they are politically motivated, and therefore not to be believed.

But how does “not to be believed” follow from “politically motivated”?  If your political opponent brings up the charges, why should it be a foregone conclusion that he is lying? That would mean that the only credible charges against any politician are those brought up by political allies.  Which would mean that no charges would ever be brought against you.  See how stupid that is?

But that is how the Binay corruption charges seem to be playing out.  The Parking Building or the Makati City Hall II brouhaha (a rose by any other name would smell as sweet—but somehow a Makati City Hall II smells better than a Parking Building) is the result of charges of overpricing or “bukol” brought by political opponents Renato Bondal and Nicolas Enciso against the current and previous mayors of Makati. Therefore, politically motivated; therefore, should be ignored. That Enciso apparently is a dying man (Stage 4 cancer, according to him) doesn’t matter.

The bukol is as much as P2 billion, which is a lot of money. Even if that bukol were only P200 million or “even” just P50 million, that is criminal plunder of the money of the people of Makati, which should be looked into and duly punished. Let’s not forget that. And other charges as well.

Senators Antonio Trillanes IV and Alan Peter Cayetano (who, together with his wife, is being accused of plunder; and who also said the charges against them are “politically motivated”) were the main questioners in the Senate hearing on the Makati City Hall II last Wednesday.  Their objectivity has been questioned, because they, after all, could be potential candidates for “higher office.” Which means president or vice president.  But why?  Is it their fault that Jojo Binay chose to declare his candidacy for the presidency so early in the game?

One wonders why Mayor Junjun Binay did not correct immediately Bondal’s statement that the Makati cakes were worth “mahigit na P1,000.” If they cost only P300, as his people are now trumpeting, why didn’t he say so then, in front of the nation?  Did he not know?  Or is the P300-figure made up?  I am a Makati resident, and the grapevine (about four years ago) was that the cakes cost P750 or P800, and worse—the bakeshop belongs to a Binay.  Can we please have some transparency?  Why is it so difficult to find out who bakes the cakes, and how much they cost the people of Makati?

Vice President Jojo Binay says he is “offended” and “sad” at how the Senate hearings turned out. Considering that he has been in politics for at least 25 years, did he expect any better treatment because he is vice president—lese majeste? Why should he be treated better than the way those senators treat one other?

Mayor Binay kept repeating that the Commission on Audit (COA) found nothing irregular in any of the five phases of the building construction.  COA Chair Grace Pulido Tan’s statement was that no conclusion has as yet been drawn.  How do we explain the seeming inconsistency?  Simple. The mayor was referring to statements made by the COA resident auditors (supposed to be confidential). Experience, unfortunately, has shown that resident auditors of the COA have often been coopted by officials of the agency they are auditing. (Remember the military scandal?)   That is why, in the case of the Makati City Hall and the Ospital ng Makati, where irregularities were found involving hundreds of millions of pesos, it was not the resident auditors who discovered the irregularities, it was another COA group—the Special Task Force to Audit Expenditures and Infrastructure Projects of the Local Government Units, then headed by state auditor Heidi Mendoza—that made the discoveries. Mendoza, by the way, paid heavily for her very good work: Her confirmation as COA commissioner was held up for 18 months or more by Binay allies in the Commission on Appointments.

Vice President Binay will have to do better than say that the charges of corruption against him are old stuff, have never been proven, and are only brought up before elections, and he has consistently won his mayoral elections despite those charges.

We must remember that charges of corruption have been leveled against him since almost day one of his incumbency as Makati mayor.  That they have not been proven doesn’t necessarily mean they are not true. It may also mean he is good at hiding his tracks.

I am glad that the Senate is bringing all these charges in the open.  For too long, these charges have been successfully kept from the public.  The Vice President should answer them one by one.  It is not a mayoral position he is contesting.  It is the presidency.  The people are entitled to have a president that has no corruption attached to his name.

At the least, Vice President Binay should answer this question:  How, on the basis of his salary as a mayor, which he had been for most of the years since 1986, could he finance a mayoral, congressional and vice presidential campaign all at the same time (2010); and a senatorial, congressional and mayoral campaign soon after (2013)?  The Supreme Court applied a test to Ferdinand and Imelda: It added up their incomes in their various government positions, and compared them with the value of their acquisitions.  It was on that basis that they declared the couple to have unexplained wealth.

Will Vice President Binay pass the test?