MANILA, Philippines – Makati City Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay Jr asked the Court of Appeals (CA) on Thursday, March 12, to stop the Office of the Ombudsman from placing him under preventive suspension over his alleged involvement in padding a building contract.
In his 25-page petition for certiorari, Binay asked the court to issue a temporary restraining (TRO) on the implementation of the 6-month preventive suspension order. Named respondents are Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), which is tasked to implement the suspension order.
In his petition with the CA, Binay said the Office of the Ombudsman acted with grave abuse of discretion when it ordered his preventive suspension even if the evidence of guilt against him is not strong. For that, the Ombudsman violated Section 24 of Republic Act 6770 (the Ombudsman Act) and Administrative Order Number 07 (Rules of Procedure of the Office of the Ombudsman).
The Ombudsman told Rappler on Wednesday, however, that the evidence of Binay’s guilt was strong.
The Ombudsman ordered Binay and a few other city officials suspended for 6 months while it is conducting preliminary investigation into a complaint that the city government of Makati failed to conduct a public bidding when it awarded the P11.97-million contract for the design and architectural services for the city hall annex to the firm MANA.
The complaint also alleges that procurement laws were violated when the bidding and construction for Phase I and II of the 5-phase project were bidded out without a detailed engineering plan from MANA.
Binay and the other Makati City officials are facing charges of malversation, falsification and violation of Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and the Government Procurement Reform Act.
Binay said the Makati Cty Hall Building II was constructed in 5 phases – he was not yet mayor when phases 1 and 2 were undertaken, while phases 3 and 4 were undertaken in his first term starting 2010.
“Undeniably, petitioner cannot be held accountable for any alleged anomaly involving Phase I and Phase II of the project as he was not yet the elected mayor,” he said.
As for phases 3 and 4, he can no longer be held accountable because his re-election in 2013. He said these were “concluded during his first term of office and therefore effectively condoned his administrative liability by his re-election.”
Binay also said the Ombudsman “clearly lumped the petitioner with the other respondents…with general accusations in a ‘hit or miss’ fashion, relying on a ‘conspiracy’ among all of them” just because his signature appeared in several documents related to the contract.
He cited the Supreme Court ruling in Sabiniano v Court of Appeals, et. al. in 1995, which says a signature or approval on a voucher is not enough to support a finding of conspiracy among public officials and employees.
Binay said there was no evidence that he signed the documents with prior knowledge of irregularity or that he was part of the planning, preparation, or perpetration of the alleged conspiracy.
“In this case, respondent Office of the Ombudsman clearly acted in a capricious and whimsical exercise of judgment when she preventively suspended the petitioner despite the fact that no strng evidence, if any at all, has been presented against him,” Binay’s petition read.
The Binay camp has questioned the haste by which the Ombudsman ordered a preventive suspension. The mayor said in press briefings that he would continue with his functions as mayor despite the suspension order, and will await the decision of the Court of Appeals.
He and his sister, Senator Nancy Binay, have said the suspension order is part of the ruling party’s attempt to derail the presidential bid of their father, Vice President Jejomar Binay.
DILG Secretary Manuel Roxas II, the expected challengers of
said on Wednesday the agency will do its job, which includes implementing orders from legal authorities, like the Ombudsman. – Rappler.com