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VP Binay backs out of debate with Trillanes

(Updated 1:10 a.m., November 12, 2014 ) Vice President Jejomar Binay on Tuesday said he is backing out of a debate with Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV scheduled on November 27.

Binay disclosed his decision as he marked his 72nd birthday at the Philippine Marines headquarters, according to GMA News' Sandra Aguinaldo on GMA News TV's News to Go.
At the time, he was asked to comment on Trillanes' claim that Binay has an advantage over him because the Vice President is a lawyer.

“Huwag na natin ituloy. Ayoko na kung ganyan sinasabi niya (Trillanes)... Pangit naman yata na 'di pa nag-uumpisa, meron na agad paliwanag,” Binay, who is at the center of a corruption controversy, said.
Asked when he decided to back out of the debate, Binay replied: “Ngayon lang... Ayoko ng ganun na lalabas na parang sinasamantala ko ang aking advantage bilang abogado. Ang advantage ko lang dito, pag-uusapan namin ang facts.”
Binay also said his decision is final.
He, however, said that he is still willing to face Trillanes, but not in a televised debate.
“Harapan tayo wala tayong prepared questions. Ayoko namang di pa nag-uumpisa... para bang inaapi ko, sinasamantala ko siya,” Binay said.

Earlier, Binay and Trillanes' camps agreed to a Nov. 27 date for the debate.

The Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas earlier said four issues will be tackled in the debate.
According to KBP president Herman Basbaño, the debate would have covered the following topics:
  • Is the Senate blue ribbon subcommittee hearing on Binay justifiable? 
  • Are PDAF and DAP legal? 
  • Does Binay own the Batangas farm?
  • Is the Makati City Hall Building II overpriced?
The debate would have been held 10 a.m. at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City.

Trillanes disappointed

For his part, Senator Antonio Trillanes IV said he was expecting Binay's announcement, but was still disappointed about it.
In an interview with News To Go on Tuesday, Trillanes said, "Disappointed po tayo pero also inaasahan na natin 'yan. Kasi alam niyo, ever since hindi napanghahawakan ang salita ni Vice President Binay. This will totally destroy his credibility. Hindi na talaga natin siya mapagkakatiwalaan."
He added that he did not understand the Vice President's reason, reiterating that Binay already had an advantage coming into the debate.
"This is the best opportunity for him to rest his case, to prove to the people that he is innocent of all those allegations, pero he blew it again. Hindi ko alam kung anong pumapasok sa isip niya ngayon," he said.

Malacañang, meanwhile, said it respects Binay's decision.
“We respect the Vice President’s decision,” deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said in a text message.
On the other hand, Senator Nancy Binay, the Vice President's daughter, said her father should just continue to uphold the rights and welfare of the Filipino people despite the allegations being hurled against him.
“Walang katotohanan ang mga alegasyon na ibinabato ng aming mga kalaban sa aking ama kaya dapat lang po na mag-focus siya sa kaniyang trabaho. Bilang pangalawa sa pinaka-mataas na opisyal ng bansa, ang dapat pong priority niya ay ang mamamayang Pilipino,” Sen. Binay said in a press statement.

United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) secretary general Atty. JV Bautista, in a text message sent to GMA News Online on Tuesday, said Binay “listened to reason and the wise counsel of his supporters.” UNA, a coalition, has recently formed a new political party. Bautista said the UNA Party will be instrumental in Binay’s presidential bid in 2016.

House admin allies

Administration allies in the House of Representatives were, as expected, critical of the Vice President's decision to withdraw from the debate.

Liberal Party stalwart and Caloocan Rep. Edgar Erice said he had expected Binay to withdraw from the debate all along as the Vice President would have been unable to fend off questions on the  allegedly overpriced Makati City Hall Building II.

“[The Vice President’s] decision to back out shows his true color and character as a master trapo (traditional politician) who says things he didn’t really mean. People should never believe his promises as they are empty and insincere,” Erice said in a text message.

As for former military officer and incumbent Magdalo party-list Rep. Francisco Ashley Acedillo, Binay’s withdrawal brings the Vice-President's sincerity into question. “Is this the kind of [quality] we would want from someone who wants to become our next President?” Acedillo asked.

Acedillo added that Binay’s withdrawal from the debate and his earlier decision not to appear before the Senate blue ribbon committee was proof that he really had no intention of explaining himself to the people.

For his part, Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone said the withdrawal was a missed opportunity for Binay to defend himself. “Sayang. But we respect his decision,” Evardone lamented.

Allegations vs. Binays
The Vice President and his son Makati Mayor Junjun Binay are facing plunder raps before the Ombudsman for the alleged overpricing of the construction of the Makati City Hall Building II. The building project was bidded out when the Vice President was city mayor and Junjun was city councilor.

The Senate blue ribbon subcommittee has been conducting hearings about the issue and has twice invited the Vice President to appear and air his side. VP Binay has refused to go to the hearings.

Aside from questioning the alleged overpricing of the said building, the subcommittee has also inquired about Vice President Binay's alleged property in Rosario, Batangas, which is not included in his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth.

The elder Binay has said the allegations were all part of a demolition job against him since he has been vocal about running in the 2016 presidential election. — Joel Locsin, Rose-An Jessica Dioquino, Amita Legaspi, Elizabeth Marcelo and Xianne Arcangel/RSJ/KG/KBK/DVM, GMA News