Vice President Binay goes town hopping to feel people's sentiments

LOS BANOS, Laguna - Embattled Vice President Jejomar Binay is hopping from town to town, joining boodle fights, seeking people out, seemingly in full campaign mode, but which his handlers say is really an attempt to gauge public perception following the explosion of corruption and unexplained wealth allegations against him in a Senate investigation.

"He's trying to get a feel of the people's sentiment. The Senate investigation is too hostile so he wants to see if this has affected the public's perception of him," said Binay's spokesperson, Cavite Gov. Jonvic Remulla.

Following similar sorties recently, the peripatetic Binay went from one municipality to another on Friday, the second day of a two-day visit to Cavite province.

He joined boodle fights in public markets, met with senior citizens' groups and local government officials and thanked people for "their support."

"He is warmly received almost everywhere he goes. This strengthens his confidence that the [Senate] investigation is losing its effectivity," he added.

Remulla, however, refused to call the Vice President's provincial tours as early campaigning for the 2016 presidential elections, even as his allies publicly endorsed Binay as "the next president" during these visits.

T-shirts, cash

Members of Binay's staff were also seen distributing what looked to be campaign T-shirts and handing out cash during the visits.

"It's not a [political] strategy. That's who he really is," Remulla told reporters.

He also pointed out that Binay-who declared his intention to seek the presidency in 2016 almost from the day he was elected Vice President-has been going around the country since 2010, but with little or no attention from the media.

"He feels most comfortable spending his time with the masses. It's where he came from. It's the people he aims to uplift. It's them who need the leadership he has to offer," Remulla said.

Binay is slated to go to the Visayas next week and will be visiting the provinces devastated by Supertyphoon "Yolanda."

Since the Senate investigation opened, Binay has made similar provincial tours to Bicol and Mindanao.

'Worst is over'

Insofar as the Senate blue ribbon subcommittee investigation and the corruption allegations against him are concerned, Binay feels that "the worst is over" and prefers to focus on his job, Remulla said.

He thanked the people for standing by him in Alfonso, one of the Cavite towns he visited on Thursday.

"Ang paninira sa akin, ulo hanggang paa (The attempt to destroy my person has gone to extremes)," he complained.

Alfonso is where Binay is said to own a luxurious mansion, according to testimony that came out in the Senate hearings that started out as an investigation of the allegedly overpriced P2.3 billion (S$220 million) Makati City Hall Building II, but which has widened into a corruption and illegal wealth probe.

He also is the alleged owner of a 350-hectare, fully developed farm in Rosario town, Batangas province. But businessman Antonio Tiu has come out and claimed ownership of the farm, which Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV and the other senator prober, Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, have disputed. The senators believe Tiu is acting as a dummy for Binay.