Vice President Binay can't brush aside corruption charges: Philippine speaker

Vice President Binay can't brush aside corruption charges: Philippine speaker
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr.

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. on Sunday cautioned Vice President Jejomar Binay against treating in a cavalier manner the allegations of kickbacks, ill-gotten wealth, bid rigging, use of dummies and money laundering against him because these could be verified or confirmed by the public.

Binay has dismissed the corruption allegations as part of a demolition job against him because of his announcement that he would run for President in 2016.

"The charges against Jojo are formidable and provable. He should not brush them aside as dirty politics," Belmonte, a vice chair of the ruling Liberal Party (LP), said in a text message.

Belmonte noted that Binay's ratings, based on the latest Pulse Asia survey, had dropped by nearly half from a peak of 41 per cent in June 2014 to 22 per cent early this month.

The Vice President's ratings slump coincided with the Senate blue ribbon subcommittee's long-running probe of Binay, his family and his cronies, which began in August last year with the allegedly overpriced Makati City Hall Building II.

The probe expanded to other allegations of corruption against Binay when he was Makati mayor, such as the construction of the Makati Science High School building, the deal between the Boy Scouts of the Philippines (BSP) and Alphaland Corp. to develop the BSP's one-hectare property in Makati, the security and janitorial services firm that was given contracts by the Makati government, and a 350-hectare agricultural estate in Batangas province.

Binay reacted to the drop in his once sizable rating as a "wake-up call."

Belmonte said Binay should look deeper into what the surveys were telling him. "Polls are not static. They change from time to time. What is important is the trend and how to sustain or reverse them," the Speaker said.

While Binay's numbers have declined, those of Sen. Grace Poe have surged-from 12 per cent in June last year to 42 per cent this month.

Belmonte expected the political heat to shift from Binay to the junior senator as the deadline for filing of candidacy neared.

Everybody's target

"Grace will be everybody's target," said the Speaker, whose political party is wooing Poe to be part of the administration ticket in next year's general elections.

Belmonte does not see Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte as much of a threat because of his declaration to kill all criminals and to abolish Congress.

"Is Digong (Duterte) serious? Is that the way to run a country?" Belmonte asked.

Duterte has emerged as a serious contender in next year's polls with a 15-per cent rating.

Belmonte said Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, the presumptive standard-bearer of the LP, was "moving up." His rating jumped from 4 per cent in March to 10 per cent early this month.

Roxas is tied in fourth place with former President and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada.

No effect

Caloocan Rep. Edgar Erice, Roxas' most vocal backer in the LP, said an endorsement from President Aquino would give Roxas the boost needed to catapult him to the top.

But Sen. Serge Osmeña earlier said that the President's endorsement would have "almost no effect" on voters based on the last four presidential elections.

In a text message, Erice said Poe's rise was understandable given that she had become a "darling of the press." Erice said the only takeaway from the survey results was that the presidential race was far from settled.

"The numbers reveal that everything is volatile. One valid issue may cause a dip. People are answering based on their heart's sentiments. But when the elections come near, they will use their minds," Erice said.

The lawmaker, however, pointed out that Binay's presidential ambition was "doomed" as the drop in his ratings had been consistent since last year.

Erice expected Duterte to drop out of the race to protect his turf in Davao City while he believes that Estrada's 10 per cent share was "[up] for grabs."

Poll doubted

Lakas-CMD cochair and former Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez cast doubts on the accuracy of the Pulse Asia survey results.

"I can't see how Grace can beat VP Binay, especially in Luzon and the class D segment. It's also surprising that Binay has a bigger share in the AB segment than Poe," Suarez said in a phone interview.

National Unity Party secretary general Reginald Velasco said Poe's lead was encouraging but it was by no means a "sure thing." Binay's drop was not "irreversible" as he still has a year left to rebound, Velasco said.

"Only VP Binay has declared [his plan to run for President] among those cited in the survey. Once the posers are weeded out, we will know for sure the real pulse of the public. That will probably come in the first survey after the deadline for the filing of candidacy in October," Velasco said.

He said both Roxas and Duterte still had a chance to climb in the surveys should they officially run for President.

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