SC reverses Ombudsman suspension of Junjun

Edu Punay - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – Dismissed Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin “Junjun” Binay Jr. has won his case in the Supreme Court (SC) against the Office of the Ombudsman in relation to his earlier preventive suspension over alleged anomaly in the Makati City Hall Building 2 project.

In its decision against the suspension order on Binay, the Supreme Court (SC) allowed the application of the condonation doctrine or Aguinaldo doctrine.

The doctrine has been a common defense invoked by elected officials in evading liabilities for acts committed in their previous terms in office.

It effectively extinguishes a reelected official’s administrative liability from alleged wrongdoing during a previous term.

The SC conceived of the doctrine in an October 1959 decision.

A court insider bared that the justices decided in session to abandon the doctrine, but only for future cases.

Binay could use the latest SC ruling in questioning the Ombudsman’s subsequent dismissal order against him, the source stressed.

The SC insider further revealed that the high court also upheld the power of the Court of Appeals (CA) to review and stop administrative orders of the Office of the Ombudsman on cases against officials.

The abandonment of the doctrine would be prospective in application, as agreed upon by the majority of justices during the voting, the source said.

This means the doctrine will apply in Binay’s case but he will be the last to benefit from it.

The SC rejected the position of Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales that the condonation doctrine cannot apply in Binay’s case.

Binay invoked the doctrine in questioning the preventive suspension order issued by the Ombudsman.

Last month, the Ombudsman ordered the dismissal from service of Mayor Binay over the controversy.

Binay had argued that the alleged anomalies were committed during the first and second phases of the project when he was not yet mayor of the city.

The third and fourth phases, on the other hand, were then undertaken during his previous term from 2010 to 2013.

The SC, the source said, has also rejected the position of Morales that only the high court can review and stop her orders on administrative cases based on Section 14 of Republic Act No. 6770 (Ombudsman Act).

Such provision in the Ombudsman law was declared ineffective as Congress did not consult the SC in approving it, according to the ruling penned by Associate Justice Estela Perlas-Bernabe.

No other details were available as the high court has not yet released a copy of the ruling as of press time.

The SC issued the ruling in response to a petition filed by the ombudsman questioning the orders of the CA stopping the ombudsman’s first preventive suspension order against Mayor Binay.

In her petition last March, Morales assailed the temporary restraining order (TRO) and writ of preliminary injunction (WPI) issued by the CA stopping her suspension order against Binay.

The SC heard the case in oral arguments during summer session in Baguio City last April before four justices – Presbitero Velasco Jr., Diosdado Peralta, Arturo Brion and Francis Jardeleza – decided to inhibit from the case.

Meanwhile, the Makati City police said the large presence of policemen around the Makati City Hall is part of APEC preparations and not a reaction to the SC decision on Binay case.

“They (police officers) are being billeted at the school. It has nothing to do with the Supreme Court decision,” Sr. Supt. Ernesto Barlam, chief of the Makati City Police, said, referring to the General Pio Del Pilar National High School. The school is located near the city hall building on F. Zobel street. The Makati City Hall building is not very far from the hotels where some of the APEC delegates would be staying during the summit.

Binay spokesman Joey Salgado said they were not convinced of the city police chief’s explanation.

“That is their version of things.  But the timing is suspicious. APEC is still quite far away,” Salgado told The STAR.

He said the mayor will issue a statement only after getting his copy of the SC decision. – With Mike Frialde

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