Binays get no support from Guingona on jurisdiction challenge

MANILA, Philippines (Updated) – Consider the Binay camp's motion questioning the jurisdiction of the Senate Blue Ribbon sub-committee on the alleged overpriced Makati City Hall Building 2 junked. 

Instead of an outright dismissal of the motion filed by Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay Jr to stop the sub-committee hearings, the chairman of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee ruled that the sub-committee has the power to resolve the issue.  

"The powers of the sub-committee is complete. They can do any and all acts which the mother committee can make except in two instances," Senator Teofisto Guingona III said on Tuesday, October 7, in a news briefing a day before the next hearing on the controversial Makati building.

The president of Binay's new political party, the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), Navotas City Representative Tobias "Toby" Tiangco lambasted Guingona's ruling. 

"Senator Guingona failed to fulfill a commitment to formally deliberate on the issue and by handing over the decision to the sub-committee, he patently evaded to face the jurisdictional challenge squarely and fairly. Is his silence, inaction and tolerance already pre-paid by P360.5 million in DAP?," Tiangco said in a statement.

"There are many signs of a collusion and we cannot help but suspect that letting Senators Koko Pimentel, Alan Peter Cayetano and Sonny Trillanes rule with finality the jurisdictional challenge is part of the grand plot to besmirch the Binays," Tiangco added.

Guingona cited Section 20 of the Senate Rules of Procedure Governing Inquiries in Aid of Legislation as basis for his position that the subcommittee chaired by Senator Aquilino Pimentel III must rule on the jurisdictional challenge posed by Mayor Binay.

Citing the same Senate rules, Guingona said the subcommittee chaired by Senator Aquilino Pimentel III cannot rule on issues of contempt and on the sub-committee report.

The exceptions include the power to order an arrest warrant to compel resource persons to attend hearings, which remains with the mother committee. Asked about the possibility, Guingona reserved comment as no formal petitions have been filed in this regard.

On September 25, Mayor Binay, through counsel Claro Certeza, sought to suspend the Senate hearing by posing the jurisdictional challenge. He argued that the mother committee chaired by Guingona should first resolve the jurisdictional challenge against the powers of the sub-committee to conduct the probe.

Pimentel had dismissed Certeza's arguments and proceeded with the hearing where a Commission on Audit official revealed details of an intial COA report that confirmed "red flags" in the Makati building project. (READ: COA: Red flags, undue haste in Makati building 

Guingona ordered the sub-committee to treat Certeza's petition as a motion for reconsideration. 

"Until the jurisdiction is resolved with finality, it is logical and proper that hearings be held in abeyance. They have to resolve it with finality – the jurisdictional issue and its motion for reconsidation – before they can proceed with the hearings on the issue," said Guingona.

Unless the sub-committee reverses itself, Guingona's ruling is not expected to postpone the 8th hearing scheduled on Wednesday, October 8.

The subcommittee may rule on the motion for reconsideration on Tuesday, or before the investigation proper on Wednesday. Senate rules only require "chairman plus one" to constitute a quorum.

Once the sub-committee rules on the motion for reconsideration, Guingona said the Binays may no longer file an appeal.

Among the resources persons invited to the October 7 hearing is Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) executive director Julia Bacay-Abad, who is expected to report on suspected "heavy withdrawals" by personalities dragged in the corruption allegations against the Binay.

The Makati City Parking Building was constructed by Hilmarc's Construction Incorporated, which cornered phases 2, 3, 4, and 5 of the project. The project began under the watch of then Makati mayor and now Vice President Jejomar Binay. – Rappler.com