MANILA, Philippines - Two allies of President Aquino on Sunday advised Vice President Jejomar Binay to give up his presidential ambition and concentrate on his defence against mounting charges of unexplained wealth against him and his family.
But the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) said Binay would never quit the 2016 presidential race no matter how much dirt his rivals throw at him in the next 19 months.
Prepare legal defence
"Definitely [he should quit]. I think the charges of corruption are very strong. If he thinks he can win using the [poor man] card, he's mistaken. He thinks people are gullible and stupid, which they are not," Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello said.
"He should be preparing his legal defence rather than preparing for an election," Bello added.
Caloocan Rep. Edgar Erice said Binay himself knew that it was "game over" for him the moment his most trusted aide, former Makati Vice Mayor Ernesto Mercado, came out with the goods on him.
"I believe that his best option is to end his presidential ambition now and get ready with his answers. But I have been observing political dynasties and most of them don't even know when to stop," Erice said.
"He knows [he has] skeletons in his closet yet he believes he can hide [them] or he can fool the people all the time. He is finished," Erice said.
"Never" was the quick reply of Navotas Rep. Tobias Tiangco, interim president of Binay's party UNA, to Bello's and Erice's advice to Binay.
"The VP will not turn his back on the poor who are expecting to have free private school quality education, assurance of free hospitalization and financial allowance for senior citizens. These basic social services should be prioritized while the government is creating job and livelihood opportunities for them," Tiangco said in an interview on dzBB radio.
Not the best option
"The VP is the only one with the proven heart for the poor and the track record. He will go through all this black propaganda in order to fulfil his dream of uplifting the lives of the poor, whom he has served since he was a human rights lawyer," Tiangco said.
Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano III, a minority bloc member in the House, said he did not believe quitting the presidential race was the best option for Binay.
"He has gone too far already and to quit now is an admission of guilt. I think it will be the people who will judge him anyway. For me he has to go for it," Albano said.
"People will gravitate sooner or later to him, especially the poor. He has a very high performance rating. In the end people will choose a candidate who will make a big difference in their lives," Albano added.
Binay holds the lead over the prospective candidates for president in 2016 despite allegations of corruption and ill-gotten wealth hurled against him by his own allies in Makati when he was mayor of the city.
His share in the Pulse Asia voter preference polls dropped from 41 per cent in June to 31 per cent in September, which some pundits claim represent his hardcore supporters.
Debate not a good idea
But while Tiangco believed Binay would not back out of the 2016 elections, he said the Vice President should drop his challenge to Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV to a debate.
Tiangco said he would try and convince Binay that debating with Trillanes was "not a good idea."
Tiangco said Trillanes used to be a friend of Antonio Tiu and he even praised the businessman during the inauguration of an agri-tourism venture on a 350-hectare property in Rosario town, Batangas province, two months ago.
Mercado alleges that Binay is the real owner of the property.
Tiangco said Trillanes was now calling Tiu a dummy for Binay. "He is not worth talking to, he is not worth debating with. What do you call a person who [is not a man of his] word? What else but a liar," Tiangco said.
"What I cannot understand is why allegations of corruption should be explained in public," Tiangco said, adding that the proper forum for such charges is the Office of the Ombudsman.
He said Binay should debate with Trillanes only if the senator would declare his presidential candidacy. In that case, the face-off would focus on the political issues.
"Election issues are for the court of public opinion, not for the legal courts," Tiangco said.