The biggest winner in the latest Pulse Asia survey arguably was the daughter of Vice President Jejomar Binay.
Riding primarily on the popularity of her high-profile father, Nancy Binay jumped to fourth to ninth places, trailing only incumbent Senators Loren Legarda, Francis Escudero and Alan Peter Cayetano. She was 12th in the Social Weather Stations survey last January.
The 39-year-old candidate on Saturday acknowledged what she called the “Binay factor” for her sudden surge. But learning from her father, a veteran politician, she said she remained wary about complacency and the possibility of peaking early.
“Actually, I’ll be working harder now that I’m No. 4,” she told the Inquirer.
It’s a lesson she learned during her father’s successful vice presidential run in 2010. Trailing front-runner Mar Roxas for most of the campaign, the elder Binay made a strong surge toward the end to snatch the victory.
“The moral of the story is never be complacent,” the daughter said.
Binay is on unfamiliar territory, having spent the past several years accompanying her father in his own campaign. “Usually I was just in the sidelines, but now I’m up there on stage, campaigning for myself,” she said.
Binay placed high in recent surveys despite the “baggage” of being her father’s daughter.
The Binays have been accused of building a political dynasty in Makati City, a highly urbanized city that has never had a mayor other than a Binay since Edsa People Power I. The purported dynasty now appears to be moving toward the national stage, with no less than the patriarch occupying the second-highest position in the country. And his daughter is now running for senator.
March 29, 2013 to May 11, 2013: Campaign period for candidates for the House of Representatives and elective regional, provincial, city and municipal officials
April 13, 2013 to May 13, 2013: Casting of votes by overseas voters
May 13, 2013: Election day
Prohibited acts during the election period:
Starting January 13, 2013
• Bearing, carrying or transporting firearms or other deadly weapons
• Use of security personnel or bodyguards by candidates
• Suspension of elective local officials
Starting February 12, 2013
• Giving donations or gift in cash or in kind
• Appointment or use of special policemen, confidential agents or the like
Starting March 29, 2013
A NEW feature of the machines that voters will use on May 13 is designed to remove one more doubt on the results of the elections.
As soon as the board of election inspectors (BEI) switches on the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS), the machine will immediately require that the date be entered.
The date will also be reflected in the election returns.
Provincial Election Officer Ferdinand Gujilde said this is one new feature that was brought up during the training of the PCOS trainers, which started last Feb. 25 and will end today.
Gujilde said this is another way to erase doubts among voters and candidates.
In the May 2010 elections, which was the first time elections in the Philippines were partially automated, some of the election returns were not dated, which led candidates to doubt the results.
Gujilde clarified, however, that the absence of the date did not affect the election results.
"That's the beauty of automation, because even if the PCOS units fail, we still have the manual results to refer to," Gujilde said.
If the BEI has to cancel the date-setting, Gujilde said there will be other queries from the machine as follow-up. He also assured the PCOS units are user-friendly, and that BEIs need not worry about them.
Earlier, the Provincial Comelec announced that priority numbers will no longer be given on Election Day, to prevent accusations that BEIs favor certain voters or candidates.
The BEIs, however, are still given the freedom to decide how to manage the lines and crowds in their precincts.
Gujilde also reminded voters to check their ballots upon receiving these from the BEI.
If there is any ink smudge or unusual print, they can have the ballot replaced by the BEI.
"There are no second chances (once the ballot has been filled up). One voter, one ballot," he said.
The training sessions for election supervisors, officers, assistants, and personnel of the Department of Education and Department of Science and Technology will be on March 3, 4 and 5.
COMMISSION on Elections (Comelec) 7 Director Temie Lambino yesterday advised media to comply with Comelec regulations on campaign materials and airtime.
Under Comelec Resoltuion 9615, national candidates are allowed a total of 120 minutes broadcast time in all TV networks and 180 minutes in all radio stations. Local candidates have 60 minutes in all TV networks and 90 minutes in all radio stations.
Paid advertisements in broadsheet newspapers should not be bigger than one-fourth of a page. In tabloids, candidates are allowed half a page.
The ads should not see print more than thrice a week.
Lambino, in a roundtable discussion with Sun.Star Cebu, said the Comelec requires media outlets to report on campaign ad placements and broadcast interviews of local and national candidates.
Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada wants to investigate the misuse of his own pork barrel that the Commission on Audit (COA) says went to a bogus nongovernment organization.
“We need to unmask those who benefited from this scheme,” said Estrada, who himself was linked to payoffs from jueteng operators during the short-lived administration of his father, former President Joseph Estrada.
Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, who was embroiled in the controversy over turning millions of pesos in maintenance and other operating expenses into gifts last Christmas, is claiming ignorance of the recipient of his pork, also called the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).
Estrada and Enrile were reacting to an Inquirer banner story about a COA report that found some P195 million in PDAF allocations in 2009 and 2010 of four lawmakers—Enrile, Estrada, Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr. and Buhay Rep. Rene Velarde—went to Pangkabuhayan Foundation Inc. (PFI).
The COA said that PFI fabricated documents and forged signatures for the liquidation of the funds and that the PFI president, Petronila A. Balmaceda, could no longer be reached.
Every year, senators are allotted P200 million in PDAF and members of the House of Representatives, P70 million, for their pet projects. The PDAF is a known source of kickbacks for lawmakers.
Quoting news reports, Estrada said ZNAC Rubber Estate Corp. (ZREC) received P106.7 million of his PDAF late in the term of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. ZREC, a government-owned and -controlled corporation, then transferred the money to PFI.
Enrile confirmed the COA report that he identified livelihood projects to be funded by his PDAF in Ilocos Norte, Tawi-Tawi, Sulu and Camiguin but denied that he nominated ZREC and PFI to receive the funds and implement the programs.
“What I designated were the LGUs [local government units]. And I do not know why ZREC had to transfer the money to Pangkabuhayan Foundation whatever that is,” Enrile told the Inquirer.
“At that time, the lawmakers were informed by the agriculture department this NGO was a legitimate organization and that our pork barrel would be used to benefit thousands of farmers,” Estrada said in a statement.
Estrada wanted to find out from former Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap and the ZREC board “why they channeled the taxpayers’ money to this bogus organization.”
“We’ll work with COA and we’ll open our books to get to the bottom of this. I won’t allow my office to be used as a conduit for debauchery, decadence, dishonesty and depravity,” the senator said.
Asked about the agriculture department and ZREC’s role in the use of the four lawmakers’ PDAF, Yap, now a Bohol representative, said: “I do not recall the name of that foundation, but senators and congressmen, then and today, are allowed to endorse coops to undertake projects using their PDAF.
“The recipient coops must account for their usage and liquidate the funds. In this case, the concerned NGOs must be called to account for the funds they received,” he said.
Enrile called on the Department of Agriculture to shed light on the legitimacy of PFI and how his PDAF was spent.
He said he did not nominate either ZREC or PFI to be the recipients of the P74.69 million of his PDAF earmarked for livelihood projects in provinces of his choice in 2009 and 2010.
No second thoughts
“I never heard until [Wednesday] night of ZREC and PFI. I was flabbergasted,” Enrile told the Inquirer, referring to the instance when his reaction to the allocation of his PDAF for the NGO was sought.
Revilla said he identified projects under the agriculture department’s program for Basilan.
“We know the situation in Basilan and in many parts of our country so that when an NGO asks for our help to assist our countrymen, who are caught in the armed conflict in Mindanao, we had no second thoughts about setting aside funds for them, especially since it was the Department of Agriculture that would implement the project,” said Revilla, an actor.
He said the agriculture department and the NGO that received the funds “should explain so that the public would be enlightened as to where the funds allocated by our office in Senate for our poor countrymen in Basilan really went.”
Enrile also confirmed the COA findings that certain documents were forged to make it appear that his office nominated the recipients of PDAF-backed livelihood projects.
“They found in the records certain documents where the signatures had been altered or superimposed… And then as if we nominated them. I have nothing to do with the nomination or dealing with the beneficiaries,” Enrile said.
“To be fair to [the members of my staff], regarding those documents, I don’t think they’ve done a letter like that,” he added.
Among the documents the COA presented for verification from his office, Enrile said, were liquidation reports that he said his office shouldn’t be concerned with.
‘We were not warned’
Enrile also addressed the COA’s reported recommendation that ZREC inform Enrile and the other lawmakers “that PFI should no longer be granted any fund assistance and have it blacklisted.”
“We have never been warned nor have we ever received any such notification from ZREC nor the Department of Agriculture. I have no knowledge of nor any link to PFI, or the one identified as its President, Petronila Balmaceda,” Enrile said.
The Senate President, one of the pillars of the opposition United Nationalist Alliance, called on the COA to release the entire report on the special audit of all the lawmakers’ PDAF from 2008 to 2010 to prevent a “selective disclosure” of the findings that may be used for political ends.
Enrile said COA chairperson Grace Pulido Tan had told him that the special audit “was not directed at the lawmakers but at the implementing agencies.”
Reelectionist Sen. Chiz Escudero said members of the Senate had the responsibility to make the use of their PDAF transparent and relevant.
“I believe members of the Senate, present and future, should adhere to the principles of good governance when it comes to public funds such as our PDAF,” the senator said.
“At the same time, we have a responsibility to protect the integrity and the reputation of the Senate as an institution and as a pillar of our democracy. This should be non-negotiable,” Escudero added.
Former Sen. Ramon Magsaysay Jr. said a thorough probe was necessary “so that we can plug any loopholes in the funding process.”
Magsaysay, chairman of the Senate committee on agriculture that looked into the fertilizer fund scam during the Arroyo administration, said the misuse of the PDAF was inconsistent with President Aquino’s reform program.
“The next Senate should impose stricter penalties on such misuse of taxpayers’ money and uphold transparency and accountability,” said the senatorial candidate of Team PNoy.
Malacañang signified its willingness to help establish liability in the misuse of the PDAF.
At a briefing, presidential spokesmaon Edwin Lacierda said the Aquino administration would cooperate should the Senate investigate the matter.
Lacierda said the Palace would allow members of the Cabinet to appear in the Senate if summoned by senators.
“Well, if the DBM (Department of Budget and Management) will be called in as a witness, they (DBM officials) will, of course, testify in the Senate hearing. But again, it’s up to the Senate if they decide to call for an investigation,” he said.—With reports from Christian Esguerra and Michael Lim Ubac