President Benigno Aquino minced no words in his message to beleaguered Vice president Jejomar Binay.
Speaking to reporters on Monday after the inaugural of the $95-million plant expansion project of Coca-Cola Femsa Philippines in the City of Calamba, President Aquino stated clearly that Binay is “free to leave.”
“If he thinks we are going in the wrong direction, he’s free to leave,” Aquino said, flat out.
Binay – who since August 20 has been under investigation on allegations of corruption – has not resigned from the Cabinet, although he has been very vocal about his criticism of the administration, and of Aquino’s allies.
Aquino admonished Binay, who belongs to the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) political party, that as the country’s second-in-command, and a member of the Cabinet, it was his “obligation” to give the President input as to “how to improve the system.”
“Just to be clear, if he had solutions, I don’t think I heard them during Cabinet meetings, he should have shared them. Of course, the question is why didn’t he,” Aquino stated.
Aquino clarified, however, that as far as trust is concerned, the vice president is entitled to a “presumption of innocence until proven guilty.” He likewise pointed out that the charges against Binay were based on circumstances that “happened before” he was voted into the vice presidency.
The President also spoke highly of Binay’s “achievements of the housing sector [on] his watch;” referring to the latter’s capacity as chief of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council.
Aquino also pointed out that the administration should be accorded “credit” for investigating high-ranking government officials such as Binay.
For his part, Binay made a brief statement on Monday, in which he affirmed that he will continue to be “a team player.”
“I have the highest respect for President Aquino and I will continue to be a team player,” Binay said.
Binay’s official spokesman for matters of politics, Cavite Gov. Jonvic Remulla, said the Vice President harbored “no hard feelings” toward Aquino.
Remulla added that Binay did not criticize President Aquino, but merely pointed out “deficiencies” which he thinks need to be worked on.
The spokesman also noted that Binay was willing to give his two-cents’ to the President if called upon to do so.
“He just doesn’t want to preempt the President,” Remulla stated.
Binay, who served as Makati City mayor for three terms before being voted into the vice presidency, has been accused by former Makati City officials – primarily, Former Makati Vice Mayor Ernesto Mercado – of corruption. Initial allegations include the gross overpricing of city projects and buildings, and the receipt of kickbacks from multi-million infrastructure projects.
The allegations are now under investigation by a Senate blue ribbon subcommittee headed by Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III. The weightiest of the charges against Binay are the purported overpricing of the Makati City Hall Building II and the alleged cut of 13-percent Binay receives of the cost of all development projects in Makati City for the release of mayor’s permits.
A plunder complaint has also been filed with the Ombudsman’s office by the ex-city officials against Binay and his son, Makati City Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay.
Since the investigations began, the charges have grown to include alleged ownership, through dummy-owners, of an 8,877-square-meter real estate property in Comembo village, Makati, and a 350-hectare agricultural farm in Rosario town, Batangas province, as part of Binay’s purported ill-gotten wealth.
Binay – who has categorically denied all allegations – refuses to face the Senate to address the charges against him.