THE United Nationalist Alliance on Monday bared an elaborate plot called Operation Plan Stop Nognog 2016 allegedly hatched by Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II and Senators Alan Peter Cayetano and Antonio Trillanes IV to prevent Vice President Jejomar Binay from becoming the next president.
UNA, Binay’s party, said the demolition plot was funded by billionaire businessman Salvador Zamora, who is believed to be a big financier of Roxas, the presumptive standard bearer of the ruling Liberal Party in 2016.
UNA’s interim secretary general JV Bautista identified Roxas as the mastermind behind the conspiracy.
“This is a well-funded, well-financed, well-organized conspiracy, the principal aim of which is to destroy the chances of Vice President Binay to become the next President in 2016,” Bautista said.
He said President Benigno Aquino III was not part of the plot, however.
“This conspiracy goes up only to Mar Roxas,” he said.
Bautista said the allegations being raised at the Senate sub-committee were part of Oplan Stop Nognog 2016.
“Nognog is the derisive name used by LP operatives to refer to Binay because of his dark skin,” Bautista noted.
The LP’s Roxas, and Cayetano and Trillanes of the Nacionalista Party, are all vying for the highest post but Binay, a frontrunner in the opinion polls, stands in their way.
A high-ranking official of the NP said Zamora, including his brothers banker Manuel Zamora and House Minority Leader Ronaldo Zamora were funding the operations of the LP and NP against Binay.
UNA said the helicopter, which former Makati City Vice Mayor Ernesto Mercado said he used to take aerial photos and videos of Sunchamp Agri-Tourism Park in Rosario, Batangas, is owned by financier of Roxas.
Speaking in a morning television program, Bautista said the helicopter, a Eurocopter EC-130B-4, is owned by Salvador Zamora, who has interests in mining and said to be one of Roxas’ principal financiers; and Eric Gutierrez, Zamora’s partner.
Gutierrez is also a mining business partner of Caloocan Rep. Edgar Erice, an LP stalwart, Bautista said.
Erice confirmed that Gutierrez was his partner in SR Metals, Inc., a mining company.
According to an NP source, Manuel and Ronaldo Zamora were the NP’s finance managers and Ronaldo was political strategist in the 2010 presidential polls.
But Erice denied having anything to do with the chopper and said the helicopter that he and Gutierrez owned was not used to spy on the 350-hectare farm, which Trillanes alleged was really owned by Binay.
Binay has denied the accusation, saying that Sunchamp was owned by businessman Antonio Tiu.
Erice said the other owner of the Eurocopter was Isabela Rep. Rodito Albano, but the congressman denied his colleague’s assertion.
“I don’t own or co-own a chopper. Yes, it is owned by Buddy Zamora,” Albano said.
“Buddy and I are best friends. I borrow that chopper from him from time to time. But Buddy was not aware that that chopper was used to spy on the farm,” Albano told the Manila Standard.
Albano explained that since Gutierrez was a partner of Buddy Zamora, he could use it if his own ride, a company chopper he co-owned with Erice, was not available.
“Among the chopper owners, there is this thing called time-sharing so they could use each other’s chopper whenever available. But Buddy Zamora was not aware at the time that it was for spying,” said Albano, who claimed to be a distant relative of the vice president.
Albano also confirmed that Buddy Zamora and Roxas knew each other.
“Yes, they are friends, too. I was the one who introduced them,” Albano said.
But Albano said he does not believe Roxas needed funding.
“The Aranetas and Roxases are a moneyed family. They don’t need any Zamora,” he said.
“Zamora is not the financier of Mar Roxas. The family of Mar I think is wealthier than Zamora. Gutierrez is my business partner. Our company has a chopper but JV is lying. It was not used by Mercado’s group,” Erice said.
Bautista said Mercado lied to the Senate Blue Ribbon sub-committee last week when he said he was the one who took photos and videos of the agricultural estate.
In his testimony last week, Mercado said he had paid for the chopper and was on board when he surveyed the property from the air.
But Bautista insisted Mercado’s name was not on the flight manifest.
“Mercado was not (on the flight). He was lying when he said he was there,” Bautista said.
Bautista also showed a flight plan from the Civil Aviation Authority listing the helicopter passengers as Dexter Estacio, Marl Jogardi and Ariel Olivar.
Estacio, he said, is a graphic artist who works for Cayetano.
“(Estacio) works at the Taguig City Hall,” Bautista added.
Records show that in early October, two flights took off for the Batangas Aerodome. The first, on Oct. 2, carried Estacio. A second flight operated by Lion Air, took off Oct. 6, and carried Trillanes, who has been leading the attack on Binay.
Bautista said they have uncovered the plot through the help of friends in the media and inside the Liberal Party, but declined to identify them.
Erice has been engaged in a word war with UNA interim president and Navotas Rep. Toby Tiangco after the former mounted a series of privilege speeches and media campaign first against the vice president’s daughter, Makati Rep. Abigail Binay, and later against the entire Binay family.
Tiangco branded Erice as “Mar’s lapdog” for the persistent attacks and pushing for political Charter change to lift the term limits and allow President Aquino to seek a second term.
The push for political Cha-cha came after Roxas claimed the only way to have continuity in “reforms” was if the President ran for reelection.
It was also Erice, who broached the idea of Roxas-Aquino ticket for 2016, a proposal that was immediately rejected by his party mates, including House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr.