You have to give it to Vice President’s Jejomar Binay’s detractors. Not content with the unprecedented 21 Senate hearings against him, they have succeeded this time in freezing the assets of at least 33 individuals allegedly because they benefited from the overpriced buildings in Makati. This is a PR coup for the handlers of Mar Roxas who until today, must believe that the best defense is offense. I’m sure, though, that history will prove that politicians who aspire for higher office at the expense of simply destroying the reputation of their competitors, rather than standing on their own merits, will not be rewarded by the people. As the surveys show, those at the forefront of destroying the Vice-President have remained in Dante’s inferno as far as public acceptance is concerned.
So how should we react to the freeze of P600-million worth of assets? Well, it should be viewed as yet another political propaganda against the acknowledged presidential front-runner in 2016. Consider:
One, the amount of P600 million is insignificant if we consider the number of persons involved. The Inquirer reported that the P600 million constituted the assets of no less than 33 persons. At the average therefore, that amounts to only 18 million pesos per person. That’s no big deal given the declared net worth of our public officials. PNoy himself declared at least P50 million in net worth, while VP Binay himself declared no less than P60 million. If we were to deduct the VP’s declared net worth from the P600 million, that’s only an average of only 16 million per person. Given that some of those in the list include Ten Outstanding Young Men awardee and Xavier Alumnus Antonio Tiu, I’m sure the P600 million in frozen assets is insignificant since Tiu alone should be worth at least P600 million.
But the damage has been done. To the unthinking mind, VP Binay could not have amassed P600 million from his 25 years in public office. Ergo, many more ordinary persons may be convinced not to vote for Binay in 2016.
But the detractors of Binay are wrong. The people will eventually conclude that the P600 million in frozen assets is just that: frozen. Unless the courts declare that the sum is actually fruits of a predicate crime under the Anti-Money Laundering Act, they enjoy the presumption of being clean money frozen due to political maneuverings.
Second, they are wrong in assuming that they could freeze the assets of a sitting vice president. While I have long advocated that impeachable officials should only be immune from suits arising from sovereign acts pursuant to the rulings in In Re Pinochet by the UK House of Lords and the US Supreme Court case of Clinton vs. Jones, the Philippine Supreme Court has repeatedly refused my pleas to charge then President Gloria Macapagal- Arroyo for corruption and for crimes against humanity. In at least two cases that I filed, the first in connection with the botched and anomalous NBN –ZTE contract and in the case of David vs. Arroyo, the Court has refused to follow the route of the UK and US in narrowing the scope of immunity of impeachable officers. In other words, the AMLA petition to freeze the assets of the VP, including the action of the Regional Trial Court to declare these funds as proceeds of predicate crimes under the law, violate Binay’s immunity from suits. It is only a matter of time before the Supreme Court declares the freezing of the VP’s assets as being unconstitutional.
But to the VP’s detractors, the unconstitutionality of their acts simply does not matter. In typical Machiavellian manner, the task is to prevent, by hook or by crook, the commoner Binay, the dark Vader, a common Tao, from occupying the highest office of the land. These caciques clearly believe that the presidency should remain in the hands of one of their own.
But times have indeed changed. The public is no longer as gullible as the elite believe them to be. Because of a thriving free marketplace of ideas, falsities, although welcome, have enabled the masses to discern the truth for themselves. And what is the truth? The reality is that none of Binay’s detractors can play the game of “holier than thou”. None of them can come to court, because they themselves have unclean hands. And consequently, none of their charges can stand up in a court of law. This is the reason why despite being in government for more than 25 years, VP Binay has not been found guilty even once of corruption in a proper court of law. And yes, the truth is that the frozen P600 million is only the fruit of a hoax.
Perhaps, a few words should also be devoted to the propriety of reporting on the freeze order, which according to the law should remain confidential. Here, the secrecy is for at least two reasons: one, to prevent the account holders from concealing their assets. Two, and more importantly, it is to protect the reputation of the account holders since the freeze order is not tantamount to a finding of guilt.
As we have learned from this incident, media ought to be more vigilant in upholding the law. Even public figures, after all, are entitled to the presumption of innocence; more so where a law itself requires everyone to treat information as confidential. Now more than ever, I have learned that freedoms should be balanced with responsibility and the pressing need for the media to comply with the law.
This post first appeared in http://manilastandardtoday.com/2015/05/14/binay-and-the-p600-million-hoax/