By Christine F. Herrera
The opposition United Nationalist Alliance on Friday accused the ruling Liberal Party, led by Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II and the law firm The Firm, of “positioning” people in government who would be doing the “dirty tricks” to frustrate the presidential bid of Vice President Jejomar Binay in 2016. “Roxas and Binay are expected to square off anew in the 2016 presidential race, and this early, they are positioning people in sensitive positions that could help boost Roxas’ stock against VP Binay,” UNA secretary general and Navotas Rep.-elect Toby Tiangco said. “That is part of their dirty tricks department against VP Binay.” Tiangco made his assertion as he questioned the real agenda of Transportation and Communications Undersecretary Rafael Antonio Santos in vying for the post vacated by Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice Francisco Villaruz Jr. Tiangco also questioned the appointment of lawyers Al Parreño and Winston Ginez, both private prosecutors during the impeachment trial of Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona, as Commission on Elections commissioner and Land Transportation and Franchising Regulatory Board chairman, respectively. Parreño and Ginez were appointed by President Benigno Aquino III in April. Tiangco also said the October appointment of the Liberal Party’s Grace Padaca, also as a Comelec commissioner, was part of the LP’s preparation for Roxas’ candidacy in 2016. He said Santos and the other LP-backed appointees were expected to be serving the vested interests of Roxas and The Firm, and particularly in making Roxas win the presidential race. “The officials to be appointed in sensitive positions in the Sandiganbayan and the Comelec must have credibility and integrity beyond reproach,” Tiangco said. “They should be appointed not because they needed to be rewarded for impeaching a chief justice, or for whatever sinister plot in the future or to get back at their backer’s opponents.” Tiangco zeroed in on the newest “Roxas lieutenant” as Santos’ political association and sudden interest to be at the helm of the anti-graft court was “quite bothersome given his political background and legal pedigree.” Before being personally handpicked by Roxas as his deputy at the DOTC and the DILG, Tiangco said, Santos served as undersecretary of Defense Secretary Avelino “Nonong” Cruz from 2004 to 2006. Cruz was President Aquino’s campaign manager in the 2010 presidential polls. If ever Santos was considered to fill the post vacated by Villaruz, Tiangco said, there was a big chance that the cases pending with the Sandiganbayan might be “unduly influenced.” “Will he be an anti-graft advocate or perhaps still an ever helpful friend passive to the demands of his former partners?” Tiangco said. He said former Makati Mayor Elenita Binay, the vice president’s wife, had a pending case before the Sandiganbayan that had yet to be decided. “Is this the real agenda behind it?” Tiangco said. “I have nothing personal against Usec. Santos, but his political association may put the integrity of the Sandiganbayan on the line.” Santos had admitted that he had Roxas’ blessings in his bid for the Sandiganbayan post, Tiangco said. Prior to his government appointments, Tiangco said, Santos was a senior partner at the Carpio Villaraza and Cruz Law Offices, otherwise known as “The Firm,” during the administration of former President and now Pampanga Rep.-elect Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. In 2004 several former associates of The Firm, including Santos, held sensitive positions in the government. “If we are serious in instituting the necessary reforms in the judicial system, we have to pick those who have unquestionable character and integrity to the Sandiganbayan,” Tiangco said.