CA to hear Junjun suspension today

By Edu Punay, The Philippine Star

Posted at Mar 30 2015 08:11 AM | Updated as of Mar 30 2015 04:11 PM

MANILA - The Court of Appeals (CA) will hear today the petition of Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin ''Junjun'' Binay Jr. assailing his six-month preventive suspension order by the ombudsman for alleged irregularities in the construction of the Makati City Hall Building 2.

The appellate court’s Sixth Division is expected to issue a clarification on the temporary restraining order (TRO) it issued on Binay’s suspension on March 16.

The ombudsman and the Department of the Interior and Local Government refused to honor the TRO for supposedly being moot and academic since it was issued three hours after the DILG had served Binay’s suspension order.

Associate Justices Jose Reyes Jr., Francisco Acosta and Eduardo Peralta Jr. will preside over the hearing at 2 p.m.

The CA will tackle Binay’s plea for issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction that would extend for an indefinite period the effectivity of the TRO.

The appellate court will also discuss Binay’s petition of Binay to cite in contempt Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and Vice Mayor Romulo “Kid” Peña for defying the TRO.

Binay has impleaded Morales and De Lima in the contempt petition after they issued opinions that the TRO was moot and academic since it was issued by the CA after Peña took his oath as acting mayor.

Also named respondents in the contempt case are DILG-National Capital Region director Renato Brion, Metro Manila police chief Director Carmelo Valmoria, Southern Police District director Chief Superintendent Henry Ranola and SPD deputy director for administration Senior Superintendent Elmer Jamias.

The Office of the Solicitor General, which is representing the government agencies, is expected to oppose the lifting of the TRO. Binay is represented by his lawyer Claro Certeza.

The ombudsman had earlier elevated the issue to the Supreme Court (SC) by filing a petition seeking to void the TRO and stop the appellate court from further hearing the case.

The SC tackled the plea of Morales, a retired member of the high court, in a special session last Thursday but deferred ruling on her urgent petition. Instead, the high tribunal ordered the CA and Binay to comment on the petition not later than April 6.
TRO valid – lawyer

Lawyer Romulo Macalintal said the CA TRO on Binay’s suspension is valid and should be respected.

He cited the TRO issued by the high court stopping the P268.8-million contract between the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and Smartmatic Technology Information Management for the diagnostics and repair of 80,000 precinct count optical scan machines for the 2016 polls.

Macalintal stressed that the Comelec followed the SC ruling issued on March 24.

“The same should be observed in the legal and political issues now prevailing in Makati City. The vice mayor should yield to the CA injunction and should cease and desist from assuming the post of Makati mayor,” he said.

“The TRO issued by the appellate court was equivalent to an injunction as held by the SC in various cases,” the lawyer added.

In issuing the 60-day TRO, the CA cited as basis “the seriousness of the issues raised in the petition for certiorari and possible repercussions on the electorate who will be affected by suspension of their elective official.”

Apart from the TRO and writ of preliminary injunction, Binay has asked the CA to nullify the ombudsman’s order suspending him from office for six months.

The mayor alleged that the anti-graft body committed grave abuse of discretion and violated his rights when it “whimsically and capriciously disregarded established laws and jurisprudence.”

Binay argued that his signature would not suffice as proof of his involvement in the anomaly, citing a 1995 SC ruling in Sabiniano vs. CA that stated that a mere signature or approval appearing on a voucher was not enough to sustain a finding of conspiracy among public officials and employees.

Charges of malversation, graft and falsification were filed against Binay before the ombudsman by lawyer Renato Bondal, who claimed that the construction of the Makati City Hall Building 2 was overpriced by P862 million.

Binay said the ombudsman order violated Republic Act 6770 or the Ombudsman Act, which requires that evidence of guilt must be strong before a preventive suspension order can be issued.

He pointed out that the alleged anomalies were committed during the first and second phases of the project when he was not yet mayor of the city.

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