Mutineer-turned-‘senator’ Antonio Trillanes IV can now heave a sigh of relief. Vice President Jejomar Binay has reportedly backed out from a challenge to a debate he had issued to Trillanes mid-October this year. After some dithering on both camps, the 27th of November was agreed as the date of the face-off between the two.Binay had been a subject of a Senate “inquiry” led by Trillanes into corruption allegations surrounding the alleged overpricing of the Makati City Building II and a large farm in Batangas allegedly acquired by Binay using “ill-gotten wealth”. By Trillanes’s own admission Binay would have had the upperhand had the debate ensued owing to Binay being a lawyer and Trillanes being an inarticulate soldier whose skill set does not go beyond giving and receiving orders. The debate had erstwhile caused the senator much anxiety on account of this yawning gap in what is really a skill that is critically essential to the job of being an effective Philippine senator.
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Indeed, the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee which Trillanes had been using as the vehicle for the “investigation” against Binay which had taken much of his time and a large chunk of Senate resources is supposedly a tool to be used only in the aid of legislation. Not surprisingly, the more intelligent observers of this circus have long been baffled by the question of whether or not any sort of legislative agenda underlies it. Many are convinced that all this constitutes just the usual mudslinging exercise that precedes a coming Philippine election. Indeed, similar tit-for-tat “inquiries” are now being planned against no less than Senate President Franklin Drilon and even police chief Alan Purisima (both allies of Philippine president Benigno Simeon ‘BS’ Aquino III) both of whom have been found to be in possession of assets allegedly acquired under questionable circumstances.
Navotas Rep. Toby Tiangco, a Binay ally and interim president for the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), the party in which Binay is a member, had back in late October expressed disapproval of this debate saying that such a debate is a bad idea considering that the political landscape is currently populated by people who “lack a final word” on just about anything. Instead, Tiangco asserts, Binay should have waited for the “investigation” to make its way to the proper venues where due process rules instead of responding within the framework (if you can even call them that) of what are essentially just public relations spectacles.
Senate President Franklin Drilon, as a matter of fact, dismisses the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee as no more than a toothless circus. It “is not a judicial proceeding, nor is it a criminal proceeding,” asserts Drilon.
Drilon pointed out that the only real outcome of a Blue Ribbon Committee “probe” was a “public humiliation” of its subject and not much else. “After viewing the spectacle of a nationally televised hearing, [subjects] are left hanging and unedified because in the end, the Committee does not prepare a Committee Report. It is like a judge who hears a case but does not render a written decision,” he also said.
For sure, the Binay circus has riveted Filipinos for months. But as to how much these exposés will actually dent Binay’s chances of bagging the Philippine presidency in the coming 2016 elections remains to be seen. Filipino voters have been known to be a fickle and unpredictable lot, often immune to the “wisdom” of the social media crowds.
Indeed, there are only two ways to beat Jejomar Binay in the coming election (1) field a presidential candidate who can pose a credible challenge to him or (2) throw him in jail. The way things are going, it is likely that neither will happen. The latter, as pointed out earlier, is quite unlikely considering that Trillanes and his “Blue Ribbon Committee” Gestapo are a long way away from getting their “case” domiciled in a proper Philippine court.
Binay for now also commands a vast following amongst the Philippine masses. And if there is one lesson to be learned from Nancy Binay’s triumph at the polls back in 2013, it would be that surveys and social media demonisation have both proven to be unreliable predictors or even determinants of who wins or loses in Philippine elections. More importantly, the different interested parties need to unite behind one candidate to beat Binay. If they don’t and, as has happened so many times in the past, all go their own ways and field their own presidential candidates they will have to work harder eroding his popularity numbers. As far as can be seen, the camps who oppose Binay are pathetically fragmented and lack a unifying philosophy, doctrine, or platform — small surprise in a country whose debates revolve around personalities rather than ideas.
As expected, a who’s-who of social media mavens are calling Binay out as a “chicken” for backing out of this debate. To be fair, what else about this back-out is a readily-evident easy target to people who lack an ability to apply deeper faculties for wit in responding to this development? The outcome remains to be seen of course. The 2016 elections are still a year and a half away and there is ample time for Binay to distract the A.D.D. sensibilities of the Filipino public who have been known to possess attention spans of no more than a couple of weeks at best.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.