Thursday, October 28, 2010

Binay denies clearing Bar blast suspect

MANILA, Philippines - Vice-President Jejomar Binay on Thursday belied reports that he is protecting Bar blast suspect Anthony Nepomuceno, who happens to be Binay's frat brother in the Alpha Phi Omega fraternity.

The Vice-President said his role was limited to bringing the suspect to the National Bureau of Investigation after he got a call Tuesday night from Justice Secretary Leila de Lima asking for his help to locate Nepomuceno.

Binay said he immediately called the members of APO's Council of Elders and asked them to locate Nepomuceno. He added that he never met Nepomuceno and he was only brought to him Wednesday a few hours before they brought him to the NBI.

Binay also clarified that he never said that the suspect was innocent as implied by some members of the media.

"Gusto ko lang maging diretso yun pangyayari. Wala ho akong kinikilingan sa pangyayari. Sinasabi sa isang diyaryo na sinasabi ko raw na he is innocent. Sa ingat ko ba namang ito...Ang sinabi ko, 'According to him, he is innocent,'" he said.

Binay also noted that the APO Council of Elders were the ones who convinced Nepomuceno to come out and assured him that his rights under the law would be protected.

"Nililiwanag ko lang. Wag ho kayong bintang ng bintang. Ito ay ginawa ko sa kagustuhan kong tumulong. Ano protekta? Bakit ko poprotektahan e wala namang warrant? Gusto ko lang lumabas ang katotohanan at ipakita na ang fraternity namin di kami nagkakanlong ng mga nagkakasala. Ito kung tutuusin bintang pa lang," he said.

Binay refused to comment on reports that evidence against the suspect is strong as anything he says can be misinterpreted again.

Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte, meanwhile, said Binay’s statement is his personal opinion and will not affect the investigation of the case.

“The Vice-President made that statement after he had a personal talk with suspect. Of course we respect (his) opinion and allow me to stress at end of the day what will determine liability or non-liability will be the appreciation of evidence presented and assessment of prosecutors (of) whether or not there’s probable cause," she told Palace reporters.

Valte said due process will be observed, with the suspect’s rights to be respected as he requested. “Of course we respect the Vice-President’s opinion. At the end of the day, there’s legal process to be followed. We understand the position of Vice-President Binay because he was able to talk to Mr. Nepomuceno and that’s probably the basis for his opinion."

Valte dispelled notions of a whitewash in the investigation, adding that the vice-president is not meddling in the probe.

"As far as we’ve seen he’s not meddling. We thank him for the successful intervention in yesterday’s affair. From what I understand, his battery of lawyers are also his frat brothers. That can be interpreted as wielding influence already in the sense they are representing him. But prosecutors know how to do their jobs," she said.

Source: ABS-CBN News

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Speaker says Secretary Ochoa not a heavy drinker

MANILA, Philippines - Who is Executive Secretary Paquito "Jojo" Ochoa?

This question was raised again by some political observers following his lackluster performance as chief aide to the President during the Manila hostage crisis.

His former boss, now Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., however vouches for Ochoa, who was his city administrator when Belmonte was Quezon City mayor.

“Secretary Ochoa is a very upright person. He’s not the...he doesn’t have the best PR in the world, (but) he was one of best officials I've ever worked with. Hindi mahangin. He does his job diligently. A very upright person," he told reporters.

Still, the House Speaker is the first to admit Ochoa isn’t completely beyond reproach. He said he personally disapproved of Memorandum Circular No. 1, which Ochoa issued to fire all political appointees of the former administration.

"In fact, kung tinanong niya ko, I’d have disagreed with it.," he said.

Belmonte hopes though, that Ochoa's errors are just birth pains. “I think, there are first timers diyan. You make some mistakes," he said.

Belmonte said Ochoa helped him get Quezon City out of its own fiscal crisis when he was the city's administrator.

"At the beginning of our term, Quezon City was heavily indebted and he, as part of a small group, decided to attack the question of revenues directly, including raising taxes. Steadfast siya dun and after that, medyo easy sailing na," he said.

Not a drunkard

Belmonte also dismissed allegations that Ochoa is a drunk. A Newsbreak article earlier said Ochoa was seen very drunk at the lobby of the Manila Peninsula Hotel last August 27, just four days after the hostage crisis.

“I don’t think so. During the time he worked for me, I have never seen him drinking. I don’t think he’s a heavy drinker," Belmonte said in Ochoa's defense.

Unlike his predecessors, Ochoa has kept a low profile. This has led some political observers to think that his presence in governance is also not being felt.

As chief aide to the president, the Office of the Executive Secretary is the primus inter pares in the Cabinet. He serves as a clearing house for all matters that require presidential approval.

The Presidential Management Staff director-general, on the other hand, handles all the logistical needs of the President.

Aside from these, the occupant of the Office of the Executive Secretary is the lead aide of the President in day-to-day governance and, at times, even makes decisions on his or her behalf. He is also supposed to be a top strategist of any president.

Meantime, Belmonte expressed hope that any factionalism in the Cabinet may be harnessed to better serve government and the President.

”I, for one, believe all of them are sincerely serving the government and the President, and it's inevitable that people come from various groups. That's an advantage in a democracy where we get people from different groups not monopolized by any faction. That’s a big advantage in time. Even now, they are functioning, not according to past associations, but with a united effort of trying to do a good job," he said.

Source: ABS-CBN News

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