Nothing but political harassment by the Liberal Party (LP) "obviously trying to destroy its formidable rival in the 2016 elections," according to the camp of Vice President Jejomar Binay.
The Senate on Tuesday ordered the arrest and detention within 24 hours of 14 aides and business associates of Binay for snubbing hearings into corruption allegations against him.
They include Binay's financial adviser Gerry Limlingan who has been reported to have joint bank accounts with the Vice President that were ordered frozen by the Court of Appeals on suspicion these were being used for illegal activities.
The others were Marie Aldon, Danilo Villas, Aida Alcantara, Hirene Lopez, Irene Chong, Imee Chong, Kim Tung Chong, Iris Chong, Erlinda Chong, Kimsfer Chong, Anne Lorraine Buencamino-Tiu, James and his brother Antonio Tiu.
Three others had existing arrest orders in connection with the corruption inquiry: Binay's secretary Ebeng Baloloy, engineer Line de la Peña and Bernadette Portallano.
Binay's camp slammed the Senate move as "designed to bring the Vice President down to his knees."
Brazenly ignoring law
"It is a shame that this administration has brazenly ignored the rule of law. Private individuals have been insulted and their rights trampled in full view of millions of our people," said Binay's spokesman, Rico Quicho.
Quicho said that the only sin these people committed was that they knew Binay and that this was being considered a crime.
Senate President Franklin Drilon on Tuesday signed the arrest order upon recommendation of the Senate blue ribbon committee. The Senate sergeant at arms was directed to carry out and implement the order within 24 hours.
Drilon had acted on the recommendation of the Senate committee chaired by Sen. Teofisto Guingona III for the arrest and detention of 14 resource persons.
By ignoring summons, these people delayed and obstructed the inquiry into the alleged P1.6-billion overpricing of the Makati City Hall parking building, the order said.
Appeal to Guingona
De la Peña, Aldon and Villas appealed in letters to Guingona to drop them from the arrest list, promising to attend the next hearing. Guingona said that his committee would decide on the appeal, but the arrest orders had to be enforced.
De la Peña said he had been confined in a hospital due to sporadic diabetes and hypertension on the dates he was called by the Senate blue ribbon subcommittee.
Aldon, head of Makati City's Human Resource Development Office, said she had been tied up in preparations for a convention in General Santos City.
Villas, head of Makati City's environmental services, said he missed the previous hearings because cases had been filed against him and he feared his testimony "might unnecessarily incriminate him."
In a statement, Quicho blamed the LP and the "political oligarchs" for "trying everything, including using and ruining government institutions, to perpetuate its rule beyond 2016.
"The Liberal Party is obviously destroying its formidable rival in the 2016 elections," he said. Binay is actively seeking the presidency in next year's balloting.
Quicho accused the LP of resorting to a demolition job against Binay and the "wanton manipulation of state agencies" because of their "mediocre bets and lackluster performance record," referring to its presumptive standard-bearer, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas.
He challenged the LP to "face the Vice President fairly and squarely in the electoral arena" and "leave innocent individuals out of this political madness."
Referring to Sen. Grace Poe's call on Binay to face the Senate panel, Quicho said the subcommittee members-Senators Aquilino Pimentel III, Alan Peter Cayetano and Antonio Trillanes IV-had maliciously prejudged the Vice President, his family and associates.
He said that Poe should remind her colleagues that "respect and due regard to human rights and dignity are the hallmarks" of the Senate.
"Anything less is a great disservice to the people," he said.
Binay has denied wrongdoing.