Senate summons documents on Binay aide's pay
MANILA, Philippines – The salary of Vice President Jejomar Binay's missing personal secretary, and the alleged “ghost employees” of the Makati city government will be the next targets of Binay's Senate critics.
Senator Antonio Trillanes IV requested for a subpoena on the payroll documents of Eduviges “Ebeng” Baloloy after the Makati city government confirmed that Binay's trusted aide still received a salary even if she has been missing since the Senate probe began in August 2014.
Vissa Marie Aldon, head of Makati's Human Resource Development Office, could not say how Baloloy received her salary – whether through cash or ATM – but said she filed a leave last year.
“She is entitled to leave credits. Her salary is under the finance department through the cash division,” Aldon said in a Senate hearing on Tuesday, July 7.
The statement prompted Trillanes to also summon the head of the cash division of Makati's finance department to the next hearing.
Acting Makati Mayor Kid Peña stopped the release of Baloloy's salary after he confirmed that the Binay aide still received pay as late as June 2015.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer reported that Baloloy got paid two days before Binay's son, Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin “Junjun” Binay Jr, stepped down on July 1 to heed an Ombudsman suspension order over the allegedly overpriced Makati Science High School.
The revelation fuelled speculation that the Binays know the whereabouts of Baloloy and the Vice President's finance officer, Gerardo “Gerry” Limlingan.
Bureau of Immigration (BI) Spokesperson Elaine Tan told the Senate that immigration records show that Limlingan and Baloloy are still in the country, contrary to Trillanes' statements.
Tan said that Limlingan last arrived in the Philippines on October 17, 2003 while Baloloy arrived on September 6, 2014. They have since had no record of departure.
The BI official conceded though that it was possible the two left without passing through immigration.
Trillanes said that in the next hearings, he will release documents on long-running reports that Binay had “ghost employees” in the Makati City Hall. Ghost employees are those on the payroll but do not show up for work.
Aldon denied the existence of ghost employees but Trillanes vowed to prove her wrong.
Incidentally, upon the questioning of Senate blue ribbon sub-committee chairman Aquilino Pimentel III, Aldon admitted she is the sister of Supreme Court Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta. Aldon's middle name is Peralta.
This was the Senate's 22nd hearing on corruption allegations against Binay, who was Makati mayor for 21 years. It is the longest running inquiry in Senate history, spanning 10 months.
The opposition standard-bearer, Binay, rejects the probe as a political tool of his rivals to crush his 2016 presidential ambitions.
Arroyo nephew cited in contempt
Vice President Binay was not the only one absent in Tuesday's hearing.
The nephew of former Senator Joker Arroyo, Doctor Jack Arroyo, also turned down the Senate's invitation to attend the hearing. An ophthalmologist, Jack Arroyo is accused of being another Binay dummy.
The Senate cited Arroyo in contempt, and ordered him to appear in the next hearing.
Arroyo's name was dragged into the Senate inquiry when Binay's rival, lawyer Renato Bondal, said the doctor got 20% in the joint venture between the University of Makati (UMak) College of Nursing and the Systems Technology Institute (STI).
Doctor Arroyo had rejected as "fallacious and unfair" allegations he was a Binay dummy.
Trillanes again grilled UMak and STI officials to ask them to explain why UMak entered into a joint venture with STI. The senator said IT, not nursing, was STI's competency.
STI President Monico Jacob, and chairman Eusebio Tanco reiterated that STI has expertise in nursing, having invested in Delos Santos Medical College, and bringing nurses to the US.
The STI officials and UMak President Tomas Lopez also explained that Jack Arroyo was part of the deal because his American Eye Clinic was then in need of nurses. Arroyo was president of American Eye.
The explanations did not satisfy Trillanes.
“Hindi kayo puwedeng pumunta dito na may dalang isang supot ng pambobola.” (You cannot come here with a bag full of lies.)
Waiting for last witnesses
Pimentel asked the STI and UMak officials to submit a legal memorandum answering the following questions:
- Can UMak, being under the Makati city government, enter into a joint venture on its own?
- Was it proper to have Arroyo as incorporator of the joint venture from the start? Shouldn't the share have been 60-40 between STI and UMak?
- In choosing STI as the partner of UMak, was public bidding necessary?
The senator said he will use the answers in crafting the next committee report.
Pimentel said there will be 4 more hearings because the absence of witnesses hinders him from wrapping up the probe.
“There are many unresolved issues because we have uncooperative witnesses. I cannot stop because I lack information. I need to confront these people,” he said.
“The thing is, many of them get sick or go abroad.” – Rappler.com