Makati court: Full-blown trial of Binay's suit vs critics 'necessary'
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Makati City Regional Trial Court (RTC) said Vice President Jejomar Binay has a valid cause of action to file a P200-million damage suit against his detractors, but the court also finds a full-blown trial as “necessary.”
In a 40-page decision released to reporters on Thursday, January 14, Makati RTC Branch 133 Presiding Judge Elpidio Calis denied several motions to dismiss the damage suit Binay filed in July 2015 against the following:
- Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, who found “probable cause” to indict Binay and 23 others over the alleged overpricing of the Makati city hall parking building II
- Senators Antonio Trillanes IV and Alan Peter Cayetano, members of the Senate blue ribbon subcommittee that is investigating the corruption allegations against the Vice President
- Caloocan City Representative Edgar Erice, Liberal Party spokesman
- Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) members Amando Tetangco Jr, Teresita Herbosa, Emmanuel Dooc, and Julia Bacay Abad
- Binay’s former Makati political allies-turned-rivals Renato Bondal, Ernesto Mercado, and Mario Hechanova
- Nicolas Enciso III
- Philippine Daily Inquirer
Calis, in a decision signed on January 5, denied the motions filed by Cayetano, Enciso, Trillanes, and the AMLC officials to dismiss the damage suit.
The court also ruled that Morales and the AMLC members should not use government lawyers to represent them in the case because they are being sued for their personal involvement in “the grand malevolent and well-orchestrated plan to destroy the name and reputation of the plaintiff (Binay).”
“If the court finds the allegations to be sufficient but doubts their veracity, it must deny the motion to dismiss and require defendant to answer and then proceed to try the case on the merits. Thus, this Court believes that a full-blown trial is necessary,” Calis wrote.
Binay’s lawyer Claro Certeza welcomed the omnibus decision, saying it belies the contention of the defendants that the Vice President filed the damage suit just to harass them.
“The Vice President welcomes the development as it proves that in the proper venue, where the rules of fair play are strictly observed, there can be a somber appraisal of the truth as to the charges hurled against VP Binay,” said Certeza in a statement.
“VP Binay can now prove what he is saying all along – that the inquisitorial proceedings conducted by his political detractors were all designed simply to destroy his presidential bid,” he added.
The Makati RTC originally set for January 29 a judicial dispute resolution (JDR) meeting, where all parties will be given a chance to reach an agreement. It has been moved to March 28.
Time to put Binay on the stand?
Defendants reached by Rappler found the Makati RTC’s decision working in their favor, since the court finds holding a trial an important part of the case’s resolution.
Bondal and Trillanes said that this might be the opportunity to finally put Binay on the hot seat. The Vice President had been evading questions about his corruption allegations, dismissing the Senate probe as a “kangaroo court.”
Bondal expects the JDR to fail and for the damage suit to be raffled to another Makati RTC branch, which would then put the case on trial.
“The next process is the court will try to hammer a settlement between the parties. As it is, as of this time, I don’t see any reason why we will settle with the Vice President. Money claim 'yan e (This is a money claim),” he said in a telephone interview.
“So we will prove our truth [during the trial] na totoong magnanakaw ‘yung Vice President na 'yan (that the Vice President is really a thief), but I know he is not man enough to face us,” added Bondal.
Trillanes said in a text message to Rappler that the Makati RTC wants to proceed with a trial because Binay has yet to present any evidence. (READ: Binay camp on reopening Senate probe: Trillanes just wants publicity)
“Once the trial proceeds, our lawyers would put him on the stand and finally have the chance to grill him,” Trillanes said.