Mayor Binay threatens SC move but...

MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) – Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin "Junjun" Binay Jr appeared in the Senate after the chamber ordered him arrested for snubbing its summons to appear before the inquiry into his family's alleged corruption.

The son of Vice President Jejomar Binay initially refused to face the hearing, and instead threatened to run to the Supreme Court to challenge the Senate probe on Thursday, January 29. Yet he later dropped the move as the Senate decided to free him after he faced the subcommittee but reiterated his refusal not to answer questions. 

Senator Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III decided to be lenient, even advising Mayor Binay to go to a "third referree" to resolve clashing legal interpretations on the jurisdiction of the Senate. 

Yet the mayor said his lawyers are still studying their next move now that he is no longer detained. 

On Thursday morning, the Binays' spokesman, JV Bautista, told reporters that Mayor Binay will insist on remaining in the detention area in the Senate basement while his lawyers will file a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, petition for certiorari or ask for civil damages before the High Court.  

"Sobra na sila (They are out of bounds.) They are violating Mayor Binay's rights. He agreed to come here out of respect for the Senate but these senators cannot tell him what to do," Bautista said when asked why the mayor won't just answer the committee's questions. 

Yet the mayor's sister, Makati Representative Abigail Binay, said after the hearing that the legal move was already "moot" and the family was thankful her brother was freed. 

Mayor Binay only attended the August 20 hearing of the Senate blue ribbon subcommittee on the allegedly overpriced Makati City Hall 2 parking building, where he conceded that the project might have been overpriced, but without his knowledge. 

The Senate is probing various corruption allegations against the Binays, including the allegedly overpriced buildings, a lavish estate they reportedly own, and supposed kickbacks and use of dummies as leaders of the country's financial capital.

The Vice President was Makati mayor for two decades while Mayor Binay is his political heir in the city.   

Former Senators Joker Arroyo and Rene Saguisag were at the Senate to show their support for Binay, along with other Binay allies Navotas Representative Toby Tiangco, and Cavite Governor Jonvic Remulla. Vice President Binay's chief of staff Benjie Martinez, and spokesman Joey Salgado were also present to accompany the mayor.  

Both seasoned lawmakers and lawyers, Arroyo and Saguisag expressed concern about what they called "inquiry in aid of persecution and election" but later said they were satisfied that the Senate decided to free the mayor. 

Arroyo was a representative in the Binays' bailiwick of Makati while Saguisag was together with the Vice President in the human rights lawyers' group Mabini back during the Marcos dictatorship. 

The  Binay camp has alleged that the hearings are politically charged, as Vice President Binay remains the frontrunner in the 2016 presidential polls. The Binays brand the probe as a "soap opera" meant to derail the elder Binay's presidential ambitions.  

Yet Senators Antonio Trillanes IV, Alan Peter Cayetano and Aquilino Pimentel III said the issue is corruption, which Vice President Binay must address as he aims for the highest post in the land.

'No drama'

The 14th hearing began Thursday morning but was suspended as the Mayor arrived in the Senate basement. 

Senators Pimentel and Trillanes separately met with Binay at the detention area to try to convince him to testify but they failed. The hearing was suspended for two hours.

The Senate later ordered that Binay be brought to the session hall. Mayor Binay stressed that he appeared before the Senate "against his will."

The Binay camp said Mayor Binay refused to testify because they got word that the senators and Binay ally-turned-rival and whistleblower Ernesto Mercado will show a Powerpoint Presentation accusing the mayor of owning luxury vehicles and motorbikes, a charge they said was "untrue." 

"Why will the Mayor allow himself to be humiliated by facing the Senate? Their only goal is to humiliate the mayor," said a source from the Binay camp who refused to be named. 

Yet Pimentel insisted that the Senate will not allow any drama in the proceedings. He said the subcommittee does not want to drag Mayor Binay to the session hall to face the inquiry. 

"There will be no drama. We will not allow that," Pimentel said.

Asked about the legal cases Binay initially planned to file against the Senate proceedings, the chairman of the subcommittee was unfazed. 

A bar topnotcher, Pimentel quipped, "Ah, that's okay. If I were in his place, I'd do that, too!"  –