Mayor Binay to seek SC 'injunction or TRO' vs Makati probe

MANILA, Philippines – After a Senate panel junked his jurisdictional challenge due to "lack of merit," Makati City Mayor Erwin Jejomar Binay Jr is preparing to seek the intervention of the Supreme Court in the ongoing Senate probe on the alleged overpriced Makati City Hall II Parking Building.

Mayor Binay's lawyer, Claro Certeza, made the statement in an interview with reporters on Wednesday, October 8, at the sidelines of the hearing of the Senate Blue Ribbon subcommittee on the controversial building, which his client did not attend.

"Mayroon ng violation ng rights ng client namin so talagang ang hihingiin namin diyan ay injunction or temporary restraining order. (There is a violation of our client's rights so we will really seek an injunction or a termporary restraining order.) We just have to finalize the petition and we will file it in due time," Certeza said, adding it may be done within the week.

The Senate probe was supposed to wrap up on Wednesday but new revelations by former Makati City vice mayor Ernesto Mercado on the 350-hectare property allegedly owned by the Binays prompted the subcommittee to hold another hearing.

Senator Aquilino Pimentel III, subcommittee chair, said Vice President Jejomar Binay will again be invited to the next hearing to explain the allegations about the property.

Mayor Binay earlier raised a jurisdictional challenge against the Senate Blue Ribbon subcommittee probing the Makati project, but Senator Teofisto Guingona III, chairman of the mother committee, upheld the powers of the subcommittee and remanded to it the petition.

Before the start of the Senate probe on Wednesday, Pimentel junked the petition with finality. He read out the powers of the subcommittee which includes the power to investigate. 

In his media interview, Mayor Binay's lawyer recalled the petition filed before the Supreme Court by former National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) director-general Romulo Neri against the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee.

"Ang pinaka-angkop na factual setting sa kaso namin ay 'yung nangyari sa Neri vs Blue Ribbon Committee (The most appropriate factual setting for our case is what happened in Neri vs Blue Ribbon Committee)," Certeza said.

He added: "Maliwanag na sinasabi ng mga mahistrado ng Korte Suprema (The Supreme Court magistrates clearly stated): "Yes, the Senate has the power to conduct the inquiry but it is always  limited. It is limited to the extent that it should always be in aid of legislation, it gives due respect to the constitutional rights, and it is done in accordance of published rules."

In 2007, Neri was invited to a joint congressional inquiry on the controversial govermment national broadband network deal with Chinese state firm ZTE, which he initially attended, but later skipped, invoking executive privilege.

Neri sought to nullify a show cause order and a contempt order issued by the Senate Blue Ribbon against him; the Supreme Court, voting 9-6, ruled in favor of Neri who argued that the questions he was supposed to answer at the congressional inquiry are covered by executive privilege.

Mayor Binay, through Certeza, also submitted on Wednesday a show cause letter explaining his absence in the Senate probe. He attended one hearing in August but has since snubbed the succeeding hearings.

Binay raised the following issues:

1. The right to due process of law – He argued that the probe has "gone beyond the scope of its original purpose" 

2. The right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty – The show cause letter lamented how Makati City officials were described as "nanloloko (conmen)" and how the bidding processes were declared as rigged

3. The right to have an inquiry conducted in compliance with the published Senate rules – Certeza argued that the subcommittee should have stopped the hearing when they filed the jurisdictional challenge last week

4. The right not to be subjected to a congressional inquiry if the same is not in aid of legislation – The show cause letter noted how the probe was meant to determine the "fitness of Vice President Jejomar Binay to run as president"

5. The right against unreasonable searches and seizure – It argued that the subcommittee is using the probe to "illegally obtain fabricated and malicious condemnatory evidence from questionable individuals"

Last week, the subcommittee dismissed the jurisdictional challenge and proceeded with the testimony of a Commission on Audit official confirming the "red flags" in the project.

Certeza lamented the open-endedness of the probe. "Nagsimula tayo sa overpriced building. Nauwi tayo overpriced cake at antique collection (We began with the overpriced building, we ended with overpriced cakes and an antique collection)," he said. –