No waiting for SC as Sandiganbayan sets Binay arraignment

MANILA, Philippines – Anti-graft court Sandiganbayan set a date for the arraignment of former vice president Jejomar Binay despite his plea to suspend all proceedings while his petition before the Supreme Court (SC) is pending.

The Sandiganbayan 3rd Division junked Binay's urgent motion to quash and motion for suspension of proceedings in a resolution promulgated February 5 and released to media on Thursday, February 8.

Saying that the Sandiganbayan is not obligated to wait for the SC to resolve Binay's petition, the 3rd Division scheduled the former vice president's arraignment on February 23.

This is for charges of graft, malversation, and falsification of public documents related to the allegedly anomalous bidding and construction of Makati City's P2.2-billion parking building.

Binay was conditionally arraigned for the same charges in May 2017, but that was just for the court to be able to grant him authority to travel to Israel for Holy Week. The court assured him that despite the conditional arraignment, he could still file a motion to quash – and that he did.

Not suspending

For starters, Binay said the Sandiganbayan should suspend the proceedings while they wait for the SC to act on his petition for certiorari. In that petition, Binay argued before the SC that Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales had no authority to investigate him while he was still the vice president.

The 3rd Division said Binay's pending petition before the SC should not hinder proceedings at the Sandiganbayan.

"A mere filing of a petition for certiorari shall not interrupt the course of the principal case, unless a temporary restraining order or a writ of preliminary injunction has been issued by the higher court enjoining the public respondent from further proceeding with the case," reads the resolution penned by Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang, with concurrences from Associate Justices Bernelito Fernandez and Sarah Jane Fernandez.

Motion to quash

In his motion to quash, Binay said the charges do not sufficiently accuse him of the crimes of graft, malversation, and falsification of public documents.

The court reminded Binay that he and the other accused made it appear that they published an Invitation to Apply for Eligibility and to Bid (IAETB) in the newspaper Balita "when in fact no IAETB was published."

No contractor also submitted an application and no public bidding was conducted.

"Plainly, the subject informations more than sufficiently allege the elements of crime of falsification of documents," the court said.

On malversation, the court reminded Binay again that he entered into a contract with MANA Architecture and Interior Design "despite the glaring flaws in the procurement process."

Binay was charged with malversation because MANA was paid P11 million even though the Makati City government did not receive "MANA's deliverables under the contract." The court said the charges for malversation are sufficient.

And finally, for graft, the court said the prosecutors were able to sufficiently allege that Binay gave unwarranted benefits to MANA and construction firm Hilmarc's.

"It is undeniable that the matters raised by Binay in his motion to quash are evidentiary facts which need not be alleged in the subject informations…these are matters of defenses which are better ventilated and threshed out during the trial of these criminal cases," said the Sandiganbayan. 

Binay is facing a separate graft charge for the P1.3-billion Makati Science High School building, while the Office of the Ombudsman continues to investigate that case's plunder aspect. – Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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