Manila mum on Aquino-Binay face-off in 2016

August 18, 2014 - 12:00:00 am

MANILA: Malacañang Palace downplayed yesterday Vice President Jejomar Binay’s pronouncement that he is ready to face off with President Benigno Aquino in the 2016 presidential elections, saying there is nothing final yet on the Chief Executive’s position on possible term extension through Charter change.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said over radio dzRB it would be premature “at this time” to comment of Binay’s statement last Friday. “Maybe the Vice President was just being honest,” Valte said.

She added Binay did not have to remind the administration of the need to focus on eradicating poverty and improving the lives of the people. “We have no problem with that. We’re just answering questions. And it does not mean that while we answer questions on political issues, we are no longer doing our jobs to address other issues that the country is facing,” Valte said.

On widespread criticism, even from some allies, of the President’s position, Valte said: “I think there will be greater clarity once we all see the entire interview” of the President.

“Really, it’s hard to judge the entire thing based on some of the clips that have been coming out. We just ask everyone to look...or to watch the entire interview of the President,” she pointed out. “I am quite sure that it will bring about greater clarity to the issues that they have been talking about today,” Valte said.

She added they had not heard of any mass protest actions being readied against Cha-cha or term extension. While Malacañang has not directly expressed its aversion to Binay’s presidential bid, it cannot say either if he has the qualities to continue reforms initiated by Aquino.

“You’re trying to put me on the spot,” Valte replied when asked on Friday if Binay – a family friend of the Aquinos for decades – is “capable of continuing what the President has started”. When asked if Binay is a friend who may deserve an endorsement from the President, Valte said: “Of course, he is. No, but I think you should understand friend in the context that the President used it in the sense that he was looking for – his main concern, really, is how to institute the reforms and how to continue the reforms,” she said.

“Again, I would disabuse our focus on the friend issue because, again, as I mentioned, it was in the context of continuing reforms and he (Aquino) has always said that the next president should be someone who can carry on his achievements,” she said.

“From my understanding, that was how he laid it out. He talked about how to continue reforms because he recognised that there are reforms that need to be done over a period of time,” Valte stressed.

Binay, meanwhile, said he is confident President Aquino would not let himself be misled by a clique within the Liberal Party (LP) into supporting political Charter change. “The push for political Cha-cha will divide the nation and bring the three branches of government on a collision course,” Binay said yesterday through spokesman Joey Salgado.

Salgado said the political division and heated debates over the issue could turn off investors and undermine the economic achievements of the Aquino administration.

“All the efforts of the President to move our country forward will come to naught. For Vice President Binay, the remaining years of the Aquino administration should be better spent addressing the issues of poverty, the looming power crisis and other concerns of the people,” he said.

“Our people are concerned with making ends meet,” he said. Salgado said a faction within the ruling LP that is pushing for Charter change and term extension for the president is obsessed with power.

He also said Aquino did not categorically say he would seek reelection. “President Aquino did not make a categorical statement that he will run in 2016. The President said he will hold consultations and listen to the voice of the people,” he said. “He also emphasised that it does not automatically mean he will seek another term.”

In an interview with TV5 last Wednesday, Aquino revealed his openness to amending the Constitution and to seeking another term if his “bosses” the people wish so.

Binay’s spokesman said the President’s allies were making it appear that the Chief Executive would definitely run for reelection in 2016 and face off with the vice president, who has made no secret of his presidential ambition.

“The President’s words are being misinterpreted or twisted to further sow intrigue between the two leaders of our country. Vice President Binay believes that despite the intrigues, his working relationship and friendship with the President will remain strong,” he said.

“Vice President Binay’s candidacy in 2016 is not dependent on the possible candidates of the other parties but on his objective to provide our people with a government that is ready and competent to serve, listens to their aspirations, and will continue the good programmes of President Aquino,” Salgado said.

The Philippine Star