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MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATED 7:59PM) He declined to name the ring leaders of a suspected conspiracy to remove him from office before the year ends, but Vice President Jejomar Binay on Tuesday admitted the possibility that impeachment may be part of the arsenal of his political foes.
“Ayoko nang sagutin iyan [I don’t want to reply to that], Binay said when asked if his attackers come from Malacanang, but, addressing reporters added, in Filipino, “all I can tell you is the reports keep getting to me. So as for that demolition job [against me], the information is that I’ll be gone from the scene by December. I don’t know what exactly that [mawawala] means.”
At an afternoon press briefing at his office at the Coconut Palace where he reacted to reports that COA commissioner Heidi Mendoza had formed a task force to revisit his projejcts in the 23 years he sat as mayor, Binay was pressed by a reporter, “As in tatanggalin sa pwesto [removal from office], sir?
He replied, “Hindi ko alam ano’ng ibig sabihin ng mawawala na ako, e.”
The reporter followed up, “impeachment din ba [does that include impeachment], sir?” And Binay replied, “Baka [maybe]” then laughed, adding, “so let’s wait and see.”
Binay defeated President Benigno Aquino III's running mate, former senator Mar Roxas, in the 2010 elections, but Roxas filed an electoral protest. Roxas has since been named DOTC secretary, but supporters of the two officials are consistently reported to be feuding.
BELOW IS THE RECORDED INTERVIEW WITH VICE PRESIDENT JEJOMAR BINAY ON THE ALLEGED DEMOLITION AGAINST HIM. [CLICK THE ARROW TO PLAY]
Projects cleared in past investigations - Binay
The vice president, who has consistently enjoyed high ratings, did not hide his dismay at the timing of the creation of a special panel in the Commission on Audit to revisit his projects when he was Makati mayor.
Among the projects facing scrutiny is the Makati Friendship Suites, which was built for the city's informal settlers but was later converted into a hostel.
"The timing of the Makati Friendship Suites audit is disturbing," Joey Salgado, the vice president's spokesperson said in a statement issued before the press conference. "And we feel strongly that the real target of the audit is the Vice President himself."
The audit of the Makati Friendship Suites was based on an anonymous letter, the statement added.
At the news conference, Binay said he had expected such dirty tactics the moment he signaled his plans to run for President in 2016.
He said he was prepared for both political and legal battles.
"These programs and projects have all passed reviews and audits conducted in the past by resident auditors and special audit teams, especially during the term of Mrs. Arroyo when the VP headed the United Opposition," Salgado said.
Salgado added that Binay's camp "also received information that a first round of review showed that the programs and projects were all above board and complied with all legal requirements, which is consistent with the earlier findings."
"We would like to remind Commissioner Mendoza that our personal opinions should not color our work or professional judgment, especially in such a politically-sensitive office," Salgado said.
"Apparently, the demolition has begun and the actions of Ms. Mendoza seem to be part of the plan. It saddens the Vice President that until now, there are some elements who will misuse government resources to persecute perceived political enemies," Salgado said.
Binay for his part wondered aloud at the spin in Tuesday’s newspaper reports announcing an “initial investigation,” when in fact, he said, the matter had been tackled and they had explained their side, and had been cleared. So this is a “second task force” already, “upon the instance of Commissioner Heidi Mendoza.”
“This is too much. Still, I’m not surprised,” said Binay in Filipino, adding that he knew that Mendoza seemed to have a personal hatred of him.
Sources said it was Mendoza who, as COA auditor, had provided a report prodding the Ombudsman to sue Binay’s wife Elenita in another case when she served as mayor for three years. The Sandiganbayan threw out the Ombudsman’s indictment because the complaint was fatally flawed, sources added.