Senate orders arrest of Mayor Binay, 5 others for contempt

MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – The Senate blue ribbon committee on Monday, January 26, decided to hold in contempt Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay Jr and 5 others for refusing to attend several hearings on alleged anomalous contracts in his city.

Senator Teofisto Guingona III, committee chair, signed the detention and arrest orders Monday afternoon.

Before this, Mayor Binay issued a statement, saying he was ready to be detained, as he continued to denounce what he considered the Senate's unfair handling of the investigation into Makati government contracts.

Senate Resolution 826 cites in contempt the following, aside from the son of Vice President Jejomar Binay:

However, the committee later deferred the order against Tomas Lopez after he promised to attend next hearing.

Later in the afternoon, Senate President Franklin Drilon said the arrest order against Binay and the others would be "held in abeyance," because the blue ribbon committee should have first gotten his approval for such order.

Senator were set to discuss the matter Tuesday morning.

In a press conference at the Makati City Hall, Binay said he will follow the committee's decision. "Magpapa-detain po tayo," he said. (I will have myself detained.)

"Sobra na po ang ginagawa nilang paghamak sa akin at sa aking pamilya... Sobra na po ang ginagawa nilang panggigipit sa mga taong nagpapaliwanag lamang," he said.

(They have looked down upon me and my family. They have put too much pressure on people who are just explaining their side.)

Binay said he is only asking for fairness and due process, which he said the subcommittee isn't providing.

Hearings snubbed

Last week, Senator Aquilino Pimentel III – a former ally with whom the Binays had a falling out – proposed that Mayor Binay and the others be held in contempt since their explanations for snubbing the hearings on alleged overpriced buildings supply contracts in Makati were unacceptable.

Pimentel chairs the blue ribbon's subcommittee investigating the corruption allegations against Makati officials and the Vice President, who used to be Makati mayor.

“Please remember that a contempt of the subcommittee is a contempt of the Committee, which in turn is a contempt of the Senate,” wrote Pimentel in a letter dated January 13.

Mayor Binay was summoned to appear before the Senate on September 25, October 2, and October 30.

In letters to the subcommittee submitted through his lawyer, the mayor said he should not be cited in contempt since he was only “availing of the remedies under the Senate Rules,” he had a jurisdictional challenge pending before the courts, and he wants to receive a copy of questions that would be asked beforehand.

In a statement on Tuesday, the Office of the Vice President said the Senate had yet to comply with Mayor Binay’s last request.

Claro Certeza, the younger Binay’s legal counsel, said resource persons had the right to know in advance questions the committee will ask, citing the Supreme Court decision in Romulo Neri vs the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee.

CONTEMPT? Senator Aquilino Pimentel III wants Mayor Junjun Binay cited for contempt after he snubbed 3 Senate hearings.  Photo by Alex Nuevaespau00f1a/Senate PRIB

CONTEMPT? Senator Aquilino Pimentel III wants Mayor Junjun Binay cited for contempt after he snubbed 3 Senate hearings.

Photo by Alex Nuevaespau00f1a/Senate PRIB

“The officials of Makati City Hall have no intention of defying the subpoena issued by the subcommittee… [but] they cannot be faulted for not appearing in the Senate because the request to be furnished an advance copy of the questions is yet to be acted upon by the panel,” the statement read.

Pimentel is among 3 senators leading the subcommittee’s probe into allegations that Vice President Binay fixed rigs and received kickbacks during his stint as mayor of Makati.

The corruption allegedly continued when Binay’s wife, Elenita Binay, took over as mayor and even his son, the incumbent mayor, took office in 2010.

The Senate probe started in August 2014 after plunder raps were filed against the Vice President and his son over an alleged overpriced Makati City Building. The probe has since branched out into other topics including a vast hacienda supposedly owned by Binaycondominiums received in exchange for favors from city hall, foreign bank accounts, and other supposedly overpriced buildings.

Mayor Binay showed up during the first hearing but has thus far refused to appear again, instead sending Makati officials to answer questions from the senators.

The Binays have dismissed the Senate probe and the plunder case against their patriarch, insisting these are merely part of a ploy to derail the Vice President’s presidential bid in 2016.  Rappler.com