Aquino wants Senate to end striptease probe of Binay
MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno Aquino III hesitated at first, but in so many words said on Tuesday, November 11, that he wants the Senate Blue Ribbon subcommittee to wrap up "as soon as possible" its months-long investigation into alleged corruption by Vice President Jejomar Binay.
Speaking to reporters who travelled with him to China, the President said the subcommittee should present all the evidence it claims to have to support these allegations so that cases may be filed if necessary.
Aquino said the subcommittee – composed of Binay's known critics Antonio Trillanes IV, Alan Peter Cayetano, and Aquilino Pimentel III – should stop making allegations "in dribs and drabs."
The President at first tried to skirt the issue when asked by reporters. He went to great lengths to explain that his phone call to Senate President Franklin Drilon was not meant as an order to stop the investigation but was merely to relay Binay's request for the probe to stop.
Aquino, himself a former senator, said he recognized that the Senate is composed of "24 separate kingdoms" and he would not "suppress" its power to decide if it's time to close or still continue the probe of Binay.
Then Aquino clarified that he remains satisfied with the performance of Binay as chief of the National Housing Authority (NHA) and sees no reason to remove him from the Cabinet. He had made the same statement earlier, even as he showed he was peeved with Binay's criticisms of his administration.
When reporters continued to press him for his personal opinion on the Senate probe, Aquino finally admitted that he thinks the hearings have distracted the Senate and the public from other important issues.
"Habang nandiyan, tuloy ‘yung problema eh. Gusto mong tapusin ‘yung problema as soon as possible, may solusyon, may bago ka na kaagad," he said. (While it's ongoing, the problem continues. You want to finish the problem as soon as possible, you want a solution, so you can move on to the next challenge.)
"This is just my personal take in all of these," he added.
Aquino said all the evidence against Binay should already be presented especially because the Senate also has other matters to attend to.
"I guess I would have to respect the co-equal branch. But, at the same time, the request is…does it have to be in dribs and drabs? Can we not have the whole list? Is the proof really there? Is it substantial proof or what-have-you? Hindi ko maiaalis, siyempre, tulad ninyo, iniisip ko rin: Parang may balance in politics at saka ‘yung responsibilities natin dito. And I’d like to think, ano, that we have responsible members in the Senate who are attending to their other functions besides this," Aquino said.
(I can't help but think, of course, like you, I'm also thinking: There should be balance here between politics and responsibilities.)
One of the issues he said the country should also "focus" on would be the rehabilitation of areas devastated by Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan).
"P'wede bang dito tayo nakatutok doon sa mga kailangan nating gawin? For instance, next year, 'yung sa lahat ng Yolanda activities, the bulk of what we can do and what we’re going to do will happen in 2015. Tapos, siyempre, ayoko naman ng maski anong delay doon. So para magawa mo 'yun, focus – 'yung focus, kailangan walang distraction, 'di ba?" he said.
(Can we just focus on what we need to do? For instance, the bulk of what we can do and what we're doing for Yolanda will happen in 2015. Of course, I don't want any delays on those. So for us to deliver, the focus – the focus shouldn't have any distractions, right?)
The President enumerated other issues that national government and the Senate should focus on:
- Ebola and the arrival of Filipino peacekeepers from Liberia, which is currently under a state of emergency due to the spread of the deadly virus. He raised the challenge posed by the arrival of Overseas Filipino Workers who also coming home and need to be screened properly
- the typhoons that the country needs to prepare for
- the restless Mayon Volcano in the Bicol region and how to keep the residents out of the danger zone
- other pending bills in the Senate, including the fiscal rationalization bill, the pension of cops and soldiers, and the Bangsamoro bill
Aquino also cited the critical role of the media, which he said will be needed for the information campaign. – Carmela Fonbuena/Rappler.com