MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – The Office of the Ombudsman has filed criminal charges against former vice president Jejomar Binay over the alleged overpriced Makati city hall parking building II.
Representatives from the Ombudsman filed the charges before the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan on Wednesday, July 14, radio reports said.
Binay faces charges of graft, falsification of documents, and violation of the Government Procurement Act in connection with the P2.28-billion Makati building. He was Makati mayor during the first 3 of 5 phases of the project.
Minutes after the charges were filed against Binay, his camp said the former vice president is ready to "clear his name," even as it accused the Ombudsman of partiality in the case.
"Former VP Binay is ready to face his accusers and clear his name in a fair and impartial hearing. The Ombudsman should also be ready to account for her actions in the civil suit now pending before the courts," said Joey Salgado, Binay's spokesperson. (READ: Binay sues Ombudsman, senators for P200M)
Salgado accused the Ombudsman of being a "protector of the Liberal Party" and alleged that the case is meant to divert attention from the complaint filed just last week against former officials of the previous administration, led by former president Benigno Aquino III, over the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).
"Clearly this is a diversionary move intended to shield her political patrons from public indignation," he said.
14 charges have, thus far, been filed against Binay in relation to the architecture and engineering of the Makati parking building II's first 3 phases. Including one charge against members of the Bids and Awards Committee, a total of 23 charges have been filed since the start in relation to the controversial parking building.
Sources at the Office of the Ombudsman said there are at least 14 ongoing preliminary investigations involving the 10-storey Makati Science High School building alleged to be overpriced by over P800 million, and a fact-finding investigation on a Makati hostel. Additional documents are being awaited by the Office of the Ombudsman from the Commission on Audit and the Anti-Money Laundering Council.
Salgado criticized the Ombudsman, saying, "The Ombudsman's fealty to the Constitution and to the public interest has long been compromised by her willingness to be a tool for political ends. It has been established that the Ombudsman violated due process, Constitutional rights and even its own rules to railroad the filing of the complaint. Her undying loyalty to her LP patrons comes at the expense of accountability and respect for the rule of law."
The filing of criminal charges against Binay did not come as a surprise, and had been anticipated after he stepped down from the vice presidency on June 30. Investigations into the carpark building by the Ombudsman started as early as September 2014. In October 2015, the Ombudsman issued a resolution finding probable cause.
In February, the Ombudsman upheld its decision to indict the former vice president, his son dismissed Makati mayor Jejomar Erwin “Junjun” Binay Jr, and 22 others over the alleged overpricing of the Makati City Building II.
In two separate resolutions on 6 docketed cases, the Ombudsman said in February it had jurisdiction to conduct its preliminary investigation that led it to find probable cause to file criminal charges against Binay, his son, and their co-respondents for graft, malversation of public funds, and falsification of public documents in connection with the bidding and construction of the carpark project.
In March this year, the Commission on Audit released the findings of its special 148-page audit report that Binay is administratively liable for grave misconduct, dishonesty and gross inexcusable negligence, graft and corrupt practices in connection with the project.
Binay's legal woes began in July 2014, when Renato L. Bondal and Nicolas "Ching" Enciso VI filed a plunder complaint against him before the Ombudsman in relation to the controversial building.
The building was the subject of a Senate probe that stretched for more than a year, conducted by the Senate blue ribbon subcommittee. It concluded in its report that Binay allegedly milked the building of over P1 billion in kickbacks and recommended the filing of plunder charges against the official.
Binay was the perennial front runner in the presidential race until the Senate inquiry began on August 20, 2014. He finished fourth in this year's presidential election. (READ: Jejomar Binay's impossible dream) – Rappler.com