Ombudsman sets charges vs VP Binay, 23 others

MANILA, Philippines – The Office of the Ombudsman on Monday, October 12, said it has found probable cause to indict Vice President Jejomar Binay, his son dismissed Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay Jr, and 22 others over alleged anomalies in the construction of the Makati carpark building project. 

Criminal charges will be filed against the Binays and their co-respondents for graft, malversation of public funds, and falsification of public documents in connection with the bidding and construction of the Makati City Hall Building II.

The finding of probable cause comes more than a year since the fact-finding investigation began in September 2014. The preliminary probe began in March 2015.

The decision of Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales comes on the same day that the elder Binay filed his certificate of candidacy for his 2016 presidential bid.

It also came 3 days after Morales ordered the dismissal of the younger Binay from office over the allegedly overpriced building. 

In a statement, the Ombudsman said the Binays and their co-respondents committed "flagrant anomalies" in the construction of the parking building from 2007 to 2013.

The Vice President, who also served as the former mayor of Makati, was indicted over his alleged involvement in Phases 1 and 2 of the project. 

Meanwhile, his son – who was suspended last July in connection with the alleged overpricing of the Makati Science High School building – was indicted for his alleged involvement in Phases 2 to 6 of the carpark building project. 

Questionable timing


Binay's camp, meanwhile, hit the timing of the Ombudsman's decision and pointed out that as a sitting vice president, the elder Binay cannot be charged while still in office.

"Dahil napaka-malisyoso nitong Office of the Ombudsman ay talagang tinaon pa nila na ilabas itong order na ito, kung kailan magpa-file si Vice President Binay," Rico Quicho, Vice Presidential Spokesperson for Political Affairs, said in a statement.

(The Office of the Ombudsman maliciously released the order on the same day that Vice President Binay filed his certificate of candidacy.)

Binay's spokesman, Joey Salgado, also hit the move as an attempt to divert public attention to the corruption allegations against the vice president.

"Imbes na ang pag-usapan ay yung pag-file ni Vice President ng kanyang candidacy, gusto nilang mangyari ang pag-usapan yung kanilang pagsasampa ng kaso, na kung babasahin mo, ay hindi naman pala totoong pagsa-sampa ng kaso dahil after the term of the Vice President pa yung recommendation," Salgado said.

(Instead of the focus being on the Vice President's candidacy, what they want is to have the filing of the case talked about. If you read it, you'll see that they can't file a case because it has to be done after the term of the Vice President.)

The Ombudsman, however, stressed that her office has the jurisdiction to investigate impeachable officials such as Binay. 

She added that the elder Binay was being investigated for alleged criminal acts committed while he was Makati city mayor, not as vice president.

"Being an impeachable officer does not insulate him from investigation," the Ombudsman said.

The case against the elder Binay, however, will be filed after the end of his term. –