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TRO from Court of Appeals is a vindication for Mayor Binay

Photo by Inquirer

The Court of Appeals’ decision stopping the Office of the Ombudsman from implementing its six-month suspension of Makati Mayor Junjun Binay over corruption allegations is a vindication for the embattled local executive, a Nationalist People’s Coalition member said.

Valenzuela City Congressman Win Gatchalian said Mayor Binay deserves a reprieve from the Appellate Court considering the haste by which the Ombudsman issued its suspension order even before probable cause can be established on the alleged overpriced Makati City Parking Building 2.

“The due process deprived Mayor Junjun by the Ombudsman was given to him by the Appellate Court. This is clearly a vindication for the good mayor who has long been suffering from persecution because he is the son of Vice President Jejomar Binay who happens to be with the opposition and is a presidential front-runner,” said Gatchalian, who represents Valenzuela City 1st Congressional District.

The complaint against Binay and his co-respondents alleged that they committed “violations of procurement laws in the award of the design, architectural and engineering services contract to MANA Architecture and Design Co. without public bidding and the release of periodic payments without its corresponding deliverables; and other procurement irregularities, including the use of falsified bid documents in the award of the construction contract to Hilmarc’s Construction Corporation.”

The appellate court’s sixth division, through Associate Justice Jose Reyes Jr., issued a 60-day temporary restraining order (TRO) on the six-month suspension order of the Office of the Ombudsman in connection with the anti-graft body’s preliminary investigation into administrative charges against the younger Binay and several others for the allegedly overpriced P2.2-billion Makati City Hall Building 2.

Aside from citing the Rules of Court and Supreme Court jurisprudence on restraining and injunctive pleas, the appellate court said Mayor Binay’s suspension had to be restrained due to its “possible repercussions on the electorate” of Makati City.

“We resolve to grant the application for TRO … In view of the seriousness of the issues raised in [Binay’s] Petition for Certiorari and the possible repercussions on the electorate who will unquestionably be affected by suspension of their effective official, the court resolves to grant petitioner’s prayer for a temporary restraining order for a period of 60 days from notice hereof, conditioned upon the posting by petitioner of a bond in the amount of five hundred thousand pesos (P500,000.00),” the order read.

In his petition, Binay accused the Ombudsman of grave abuse of discretion and of “whimsically and capriciously” disregarding and violating laws and jurisprudence. He also insists that there is no evidence on record to support the allegations against him.

The appellate court also set a hearing on March 30 and 31 on Binay’s plea for a writ of preliminary injunction. A writ of preliminary injunction will extend the TRO indefinitely, and will only cease to take effect when lifted by the CA.

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales was, meantime, directed to file the Ombudsman’s comment on Binay’s petition.

In suspending Mayor Binay, the Ombudsman invoked Section 24 of Republic Act (RA) No. 6770 (Ombudsman Act of 1989), in relation to Section 9, Rule III of Administrative Order No. 17.

Section 24 of RA No. 6770 provides for the power of the anti-graft body to hand down preventive suspensions. The said provision states: “The Ombudsman or his Deputy may preventively suspend any officer or employee under his authority pending an investigation, if in his judgment the evidence of guilt is strong, and (a) the charge against such officer or employee involves dishonesty, oppression or grave misconduct or neglect in the performance of duty; (b) the charges would warrant removal from service; or (c) the respondent’s continued stay in office may prejudice the case filed against him.” (R. Burgos)