MANILA, Philippines - Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay Jr. on Monday filed a libel complaint before the Office of the Makati City Prosecutor against Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, who claimed that two justices of the Court of Appeals (CA) were bribed with P50 million for their ruling against the mayor’s suspension by the Office of the Ombudsman.
Binay, son of Vice President Jejomar Binay, said that Trillanes claimed in an interview aired last April 7 over several radio and television stations, and in an article published in the April 8 issue of a newspaper, that members of the CA’s 6th Division were given bribes in exchange for the favorable action on the petitions for a temporary restraining order and writ of preliminary injunction.
The mayor said Trillanes was also quoted as saying that he (Binay) and his family were “part of a syndicate” that has committed various crimes and irregularities.
In his complaint-affidavit, Binay said it was evident from the media interview of Trillanes and the subsequent newspaper article, titled “Trillanes: I will expose Binay paid for TRO,” that the senator made claims despite lack of evidence.
“The damaging and ruinous claims spewed out by respondent Trillanes are mere concoctions and fabrications with no other purpose than to malign, discredit, ruin my reputation and besmirch my good name as well as that of my family,” Binay said.
He pointed out that Trillanes himself had admitted during the interview that he had no valid proof or factual basis for his pronouncements.
Based on the actual interview, the senator appeared “evasive” when asked directly by reporters how he came to know about the alleged bribery. Instead, Trillanes, a former Navy officer, cited his use of “intelligence” that he said was military parlance for information gathered for purposes of “decision-making.”
Binay said the acts of Trillanes in connection with the defamatory statements made against him constitute a violation of Article 355 in relation to Article 353 of the Revised Penal Code.
He cited a ruling that says, “No bona fide having been made to ascertain the truth of such statements before they were written and published in reckless disregard of the truth, the presumption of malice applies as these article(s) are not privileged communication.”
The libelous statements made by Trillanes in public were “attended with malice in fact as they were prompted by ill will and spite inasmuch as they have no factual basis whatsoever and were not made in response to duty, but only with obvious intention to injure my reputation as well as those of my family,” said Binay.
The mayor’s sister Sen. Nancy Binay challenged Trillanes to file the case against her father and the Binay family if he has proof on all his allegations against them.
She called on Trillanes to stop using the resources of the Senate in maligning the Binays.
“If he has evidence, why does he need to call for a hearing? He should reveal it and file the case instead of using the media. We have to stop throwing around baseless accusations and let the evidence speak for itself, if such evidence even exists,” the senator said.
She said Trillanes is now bordering on “verbal terrorism.”
Trillanes is not only ruining the Binay family, but also the Senate as a respected and independent institution, she added.
Rico Quicho, Vice President Binay’s spokesman on political concerns, said Trillanes should stop acting like he is above the law.
Quicho said that Trillanes had shown that he has absolutely no respect for the principle of due process and the equality of the three branches of government.
“He is willing to sacrifice the pillars of democracy and due process before the altar of political expediency,” Quicho said.
Quicho said Trillanes has become so desperate that he disregards the efforts of the judiciary to win the people’s trust and confidence.
Makati City Rep. Abigail Binay said Trillanes should resign for making false accusations.
“That’s Sen. Trillanes for you. He makes accusations without proof or evidence. This is all for media mileage. He’s destroying an institution just to promote his interest,” Binay said.
Parañaque City Rep. Gustavo Tambunting and Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez,in separate statements,cautioned Trillanes against making serious allegations without presenting any evidence.
“This is very serious allegation that should be backed up by clear and convincing evidence. It also undermines the integrity of our judicial system as an institution, which our people rely upon in the dispensation of justice,” Tambunting said.
“I always respect the majesty of the court and as a member of the bar, I will never go to the extent of making statement or accusation unless I have hard evidence,” Romualdez said.
SC tackles Binay’s suspension
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales returned to the Supreme Court (SC) during the summer session of the justices in Baguio City yesterday and faced her former colleagues to justify her preventive suspension order against Mayor Binay.
In oral arguments, Morales invoked her office’s independence and constitutional powers in assailing the temporary restraining order and writ of preliminary injunction issued by the Court of Appeals (CA) stopping the suspension order.
Morales asked the high court to issue TRO as she warned of possible repercussions of the CA.
“I hope it (SC ruling) is not going to be adverse to us because otherwise it’s going to create a floodgate for some respondents to be always assailing the rules of the ombudsman,” she stressed.
Morales, a retired SC justice, told the high court that her office is an independent body and has acted on cases “not on account of politics, but on account of what we believe calls for filing of cases in court.”
Morales was quizzed by her former colleagues on the validity of the suspension order.
During interpellation, she explained that the preventive suspension imposed on Mayor Binay was well within the investigative powers of her office.
She said suspension was necessary to secure evidence for the purpose of investigation against Binay.
Upon questioning by Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, she admitted that the preventive suspension issued against Mayor Binay covers only the administrative aspect of the case.
As to the criminal aspect, Morales said only the Sandiganbayan could issue a preventive suspension order upon finding of probable cause by the ombudsman.
Solicitor General Florin Hilbay, who represented the anti-graft office in the case, further told the high court that the CA has no authority to stop the ombudsman orders as only the high tribunal can do so.
He argued that the CA’s issuances undermined the ombudsman’s independence as provided in the Constitution and under Section 14 of Republic Act 6770 or the Ombudsman Act of 1989. – With Jose Rodel Clapano, Edu Punay, Paolo Romero