Standoff looms as Mayor Binay digs in, files petition at CA; SILG Roxas set to enforce suspension
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MANILA - (UPDATE 4:18 PM) A standoff looms at Makati's City Hall after Mayor Jejomar Erwin "Junjun" Binay declared he was staying put at his office while Interior Secretary Mar Roxas served notice they are bent on enforcing the six-month suspension order issued Wednesday by the Ombudsman. Binay's lawyers challenged the suspension before the Court of Appeals.
'"The law is the law, and we are all covered by the law," said Roxas in a statement sent to media offices.
The DILG said it received the mandate of the Ombudsman in the suspension of Makati Mayor Binay and 22 other city officials in connection with alleged anomalies in the construction of Makati's City Hall Building 2.
The Binay camp earlier criticized the "express lane" brand of justice for the Binay family, and the mayor - who along with his father, Vice President Jejomar Binay, is being investigated - said Wednesday night he would defy an illegal suspension order that his lawyers are challenging in court.
On Thursday, Mayor Binay's lawyers challenged the suspension order by filing a petition for certiorari with the Court of Appeals (CA).
At a press conference, the mayor told reporters he was prepared to remain at City Hall for as long as necessary to thwart any attempt by political opponents to replace him with a member of the Liberal Party.
Binay said the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) should respect the petition and not insist on implementing the suspension order.
“Why is there still a need for preventive suspension when in fact, there have been several senate hearings conducted on the case, and we have been able to provide them all the subpoenaed documents?” Binay asked.
Throwing the kitchen sink?
In a span of seven months since lawyer Renato Bondal filed a case of plunder against the mayor and other city officials for the alleged overprice of City Hall Building II in July last year, the Binay camp said several government agencies have been used to harass them, citing what happened: 17 Senate hearings, one special audit by the Commission on Audit (COA), four cases filed by the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) against people with alleged links with the Vice President, and a probe by the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC).
A special panel of Ombudsman investigators was soon created, followed shortly by the Ombudsman’s suspension order against the mayor and other city officials and respondents.
Certiorari petition at CA
In the petition for certiorari filed with the CA, Binay lawyers Claro Certeza and Maria Patricia Alvarez cited ‘grave abuse of discretion’ committed by the Ombudsman in ‘whimsically and capriciously’ disregarding and violating established laws and jurisprudence.
The lawyers argued that the Joint Order issued by the Ombudsman was “patently illegal” because it “miserably failed to show that the evidence of guilt presented against the petitioner is strong”, which is in violation of the Rules of Procedure of the said office and Republic Act 6770.
“With such violation of Petitioner’s clear and unmistakable rights, the issuance of a Temporary Restraining Order against a suspension order is of urgent and paramount necessity in order to prevent serious damage not only to the Petitioner, but also to his constituents,” the petition stated.
Citing a Supreme Court decision issuing a TRO against a suspension order issued by the Ombudsman (Garcia v Court of Appeals), the petition sought the Court’s protection from the said preventive suspension, which “will deprive the Makati City electorate of the services of the person they have conscientiously chosen and voted into office.”
“It is not for the court, by reason of such fault for misconduct, to practically overrule the will of the people,” another ruling stated.
The Binay lawyers cited the so-called Aguinaldo doctrine in which the Supreme Court ruled that a petitioner’s re-election to the post renders pending administrative cases against him “moot and academic”, and operates as a “condonation of any alleged previous misconduct."
Roxas: uninterrupted service delivery
In declaring Thursday his intent to enforce the Ombudsman's order, Roxas said the most important thing for him was ensuring "the ongoing, regular, uninterrupted delivery of services to the citizens."
He assured the public that the authorities will fulfill the mandate of the Ombudsman in an "efficient, professional and fair manner."
The Ombudsman earlier decided that there is enough evidence to suspend Mayor Binay and 22 other city officials, but Binay's lawyers and stalwarts of the United National Opposition decried the seeming haste with which the Ombudsman processed the case - creating a special panel of investigators that announced it was filing a complaint even when, said Binay lawyers, the usual preliminary investigation should have been the procedure followed.
Saying "all are covered by law," Roxas, however, just advised Mayor Binay "to prepare his defense."
Mayor vows to exhaust legal remedies
On Wednesday, Mayor Binay questioned the preventive suspension order served by the Office of the Ombudsman on him and 22 others named as respondents in the investigation on the alleged overprice of Makati City Hall Building II.
In a statement, Binay decried the apparent haste with which the suspension order was made, calling it a “special express suspension” that was reminiscent of other instances that he and other members of his family were subjected to such “special treatment.”
“Talagang may special treatment kaming mga Binay. Special Senate hearing. Special COA audit. Special panel ng Ombudsman. At ngayon, special express na suspension,” he said.
The mayor said the action of the Ombudsman was no longer surprising, given the fact that the special panel of investigators includes prosecutors affiliated with the likes of Atty. Simeon Marcelo, former Ombudsman and law partner of Atty. Nonong Cruz. He said they were not only lawyers of DILG Secretary Mar Roxas, but are also known as his operators.
Binay pointed out that the DILG led by Roxas was the implementing agency of the suspension order. He said that just like in the Senate, they were not given the chance to properly explain and answer the allegations leveled against them.
The mayor vowed to exhaust all legal remedies, and appealed for fair and equal treatment from the concerned government agencies. He said he remained hopeful that the courts will remain fair and impartial, even if the Ombudsman has not done so.
“I will exhaust all available remedies. I will continue discharging my duties as mayor until all legal remedies have been respected. While I may belong to the opposition, I am still entitled to my rights like any Filipino citizen,” Binay said.
The mayor warned the citizens of Makati that the lies and unjust persecution against his father, Vice President Binay, and their family will not stop, and are expected to even intensify in the coming months as the 2016 election draws near.
These demolition efforts, as he described them, had only one goal: to stop the ambition of VP Binay to run for the presidency in 2016.
The mayor's father and Secretary Roxas first faced off for the vice presidency in 2010, but the latter lost in what he claimed was an election tainted with fraud. There is continuing speculation the two men will again face off in 2016.