Another CA justice opts out of Binay case
The resolution of the second suspension case of Makati City Mayor Jejomar Erwin “Junjun” Binay Jr. is expected to be further delayed after another magistrate of the Court of Appeals has recused himself from participating in its proceedings.
Associate Justice Franchito Diamante has been assigned as one of the two addition members of the CA’s Special 9th Division to resolve Binay’s petition assailing his second suspension by the Office of the Ombudsman, in connection with the allegedly overpriced construction of the Makati Science High School building .
However, Diamante opted to inhibit from the case since he is a member of the internal committee of the CA tasked to investigate the bribery allegations of Senator Antonio Trillanes against two fellow justices who handled the first preventive suspension order of the Office of the Ombudsmanagainst Binay.
Diamante was the fourth CA justice to inhibit from the case. The first three were Associate Justices Celia Librea-Leagogo, Priscilla Baltazar—Padilla and Ramon Paul Hernando.
Because of this development, a raffle was conducted yesterday where Associate Justice Romero Barza was picked to take Diamante’s place in the case.
The other magistrate to join the special division of five is Associate Justice Socorro Inting.
The CA division composed of Associate Justice Melchor Sadang, Amy
Lazaro-Javier and Rodil Zalameda failed to unanimously rule on the case after casting a 2-1 vote, prompting the creation of a division of five as required under the rules.
In a related development, law experts called on the Supreme Court to now resolve the case involving the first preventive suspension of Binay in connection with the alleged anomaly in the City Hall Building 2.
Former law deans Pacifico Agabin and Amado Valdez stressed the importance of finally deciding on whether the CA indeed has authority to restrain Ombudsman suspension orders – especiallywith the election season nearing.
The petition was filed by the Office of the Ombudsman contesting the temporary restraining order issued by the Court of Appeals that stopped Binay’s suspension.
Both Agabin and Valdez agreed that the SC petition should be resolved before Binay’s term ends next year.
“If all pleadings have been submitted for resolution [then the petition may be resolved already]. The case must be expedited because the term is expiring,” said Valdez, former law dean at the University of the East.
Agabin, for his part, said: “The SC can already resolve the case kahit doon sa aspect on the CA’s authority to stop the Ombudsman’s preventive suspension.”
Binay became Makati mayor in 2010, succeeding his father Jejomar Binay, who ascended to the vice presidency. In 2013, the younger Binay was re-elected, with his term supposedly ending in 2016.
Last March, his term was almost cut short after the Ombudsman preventively suspended him over alleged overpricing in the construction of the Makati City Hall Building II. The Department of Interior and Local Government served the suspension order.
Binay sought relief from the appeals court, who eventually issued a temporary restraining order in his favor, but only after Vice Mayor Kid Peña was sworn in as Makati’s acting mayor.
Despite CA’s TRO, the DILG and the Ombudsman insisted that Binay was suspended and Peña was the acting mayor. The CA eventually issued an injunction, clarifying that the status quo should be observed and that Binay should remain in his post.
The CA’s TRO and injunction prompted the Ombudsman to seek the SC’s redress, saying the CA has no authority to stop the Ombudsman’s preventive suspension.
Asked what would be the implication if the SC fails to resolve the case before May 2016, Valdez said: “If the SC decides later, the decision will serve as precedent on future cases.”
The former UE dean also said the case should already de decided upon because “the suspension of Junjun will be served anyway after six months.”
Binay ended up vacating his post in July after the Ombudsman issued a second preventive suspension, this time over the alleged overpricing in the Makati City Science High School.