Mayor Binay defies 2nd suspension order

MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) – Faced with a second suspension order this year, Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay Jr stood his ground and said he will not leave the city hall despite an order from the Ombudsman. 

On Monday, June 29, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales ordered the 6-month preventive suspension of Binay and 14 others over the allegedly overpriced Makati Science High School Building.

They face 7 administrative cases, all for grave misconduct, dishonesty, conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.

The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) confirmed receiving the order around 10:10 am.

But Binay was defiant, again hitting the Aquino administration for what he called "selective justice" and persecution against his family.  

Asked if he would heed the Ombudsman's order and step down, Binay told reporters: "Kailangang ipaglaban natin ang ating minamahal na lungsod dahil malinaw na mali ang ginagawa ng Ombudsman at mali na ginagamit ng mga kalaban namin sa pulitika ang opisina ng Ombudsman. Hindi ako aalis dito."

(We need to defend our beloved city because it is clear that what the Ombudsman is doing is wrong. It's not right that our political foes are using the Ombudsman's office for their own purposes. I will not leave the city hall.)

Binay also refused to accept the order, the Ombudsman said in a press release.

"Despite efforts to personally serve today the 12-page Joint Order, Mayor Binay and his office staff refused to receive a copy of the Joint Order and prevented the process servers to leave the Joint Order in his office. The process servers thereupon served a copy of the Order in his residence," the Ombudsman said.

In a press conference, Binay said he was no longer expecting to get fair treatment from the Ombudsman, who first ordered his suspension 3 months ago over another controversial city building. 

His suspension, however, was stopped after he managed to get a Court of Appeals order in his favor.

For his second suspension, Binay said his lawyers are preparing another petition before the appellate court.

Meanwhile, the DILG said in a statement that it is "duty bound" to implement the Ombudsman's order "in the most expeditious and peaceable way."

"It shall do so through its appropriate officials assisted by the [Philippine National Police] as necessary. As a general rule, maximum tolerance shall be observed," the agency added.

Aquino's involvement

The mayor also lashed out at President Benigno Aquino III, saying it was "clear as day" that the President knew about the "persecution" against his family. 

"Siguro mas malinaw pa sa sikat ng araw na alam ng Pangulo ang nangyayari dito…. Alam na natin 'yun. Maglolokohan pa ba tayo dito? Maaari bang hindi alam ng Pangulo ang ginagawa ng mga tao niya?" he said. 

(It's clearer than daylight that the President knows what's happening here. We know that. Are we kidding ourselves? It's impossible that the President doesn't know what his people are doing.)

"Noong una ayaw naming paniwalaan na mayroon siyang alam dito. Pero sa puntong ito, mahirap nang paniwalaan na hindi alam ni Pangulong Aquino ang mga ginagawa sa amin, na nilalapastangan na ang pangalan namin, ang pamilya namin," he added.

(At first we didn't want to think he knew anything about this. But at this point, it's already difficult to believe that President Aquino doesn't know what's being done to us, that our name, our family, is being disrespected.)

This second suspension order also comes a week after the mayor's father, Vice President Jejomar Binay, quit the Aquino Cabinet. The Binay family has repeatedly criticized the political attacks against them as attempts to derail the elder Binay's 2016 presidential bid.

Binay also claimed that his second suspension did not come as a surprise, citing information his camp received that his political foes were already planning for his suspension.

'No legal basis'

The Ombudsman's second suspension order was based on complaints over the 10-storey science high school. In a Senate hearing last November 2014, whistleblowers claimed the building was overpriced by around P862 million.  

In its order dated June 25, the Ombudsman said the preventive suspension stemmed from the complaint filed by the Field Investigation Office on June 8, which showed that "respondents mutually aided one another" in rigging and pre-arranging the procurement and award of the P1.3 billion contract for the high school in favor of pre-selected contractors.

The order also said that the preventive suspension was imposed "since [respondents'] respective positions give them access to public records and influence to possible witnesses, and considering the apparent repeated and similar schematic pattern applied in these transactions."

But Binay's lawyer Claro Certeza said there was no factual or legal basis to recommend charges against the city mayor. 

In a statement, Certeza pointed out the allegations of rigged biddings for the construction of the school was "solely premised" on the statement of former bids and awards committee vice-chairman Mario Hechanova, who claimed that former Makati City Engineer Nelson Morales told him to favor certain parties in the bidding for the design and construction of the building. 

Morales was allegedly acting under the orders of former mayor and now Vice President Jejomar Binay.

Certeza said Hechanova's statement was only hearsay evidence that could not be corroborated because Morales is already dead.

The Binay lawyer also disputed allegations that Mayor Binay conspired with his co-respondents, calling the claims a "bare-faced lie" with no supporting evidence.

"The complaint is bereft of any statement as to the participation of Mayor Junjun Binay in the planning, preparation, and perpetration of the alleged conspiracy," Certeza said.

Even if the mayor signed bid documents related to the design and construction for Phase IV, V, and VI of the science high school, Certeza said Binay cannot be held accountable because he signed these in the performance of his functions as city mayor.

He also cited the doctrine of condonation, a disputed doctrine which absolves an official of administrative liability committed while he or she was in office, once he or she is re-elected. – Rappler.com