MANILA, Philippines – In a repeat of his legal move in March, Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay Jr once again asked the Court of Appeals to stop a second suspension order issued by the Ombudsman against him.
In a petition for certiorari filed on Monday, June 29, the mayor asked the appellate court to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) on the 6-month preventive suspension imposed on him and 14 other officials over the allegedly overpriced Makati Science High School (MSHS) building.
The officials were ordered suspended for allegedly participating in a conspiracy to rig the bidding for the construction of the 10-story building to favor a pre-selected bidder.
This is the second time that the Makati mayor has asked the Court of Appeals to stop his suspension. In March, he also asked the court to stop the Ombudsman's order over an allegedly anomalous contract for a Makati City Hall building.
Binay managed to obtain a TRO, and later an injunction, stopping his suspension. The CA ruling was questioned by the Ombudsman before the Supreme Court; the petition is pending.
This latest petition with the CA questioned the Ombudsman's basis for ordering his preventive suspension, which, he said, was premised only on hearsay evidence.
Binay said the allegations of rigged biddings were based 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.
Binay said Hechanova's statement was only hearsay evidence that could not be corroborated because Morales is already dead.
His camp 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.
Only 3 of the 7 construction phases of the MSHS project were undertaken under Binay's term – Phases IV and V during his first term, and Phase VI in his second term.
Binay said that his re-election "rendered the case against him moot and academic pursuant to the established ruling in Aguinaldo vs Santos."
His camp also pointed out that the lack of strong evidence to justify the issuance of a preventive suspension order meant that the Ombudsman's order was issued "with grave abuse of discretion."
"Clearly, the Ombdusman whimsically and capriciously disregarded and violated the foregoing established laws and jurisprudence," the petition said.
Citing Section 24 of Republic Act 6770, Binay said he was entitled to injunctive relief since he can only be preventively suspended if the evidence of guilt is strong.
As Binay's camp waits to hear from the CA, his Vice Mayor Romulo Peña has been sworn in as acting mayor.
Despite Binay's refusal to step down, Peña insisted that he is now the lawful leader of the city because there was no TRO stopping his assumption to office.
In March, Binay got the TRO from the appeals court hours after Peña was sworn in. Both officials claimed the top post, creating a leadership standoff in the city. – Rappler.com