Court junks Trillanes appeal on arrest
Mike Frialde (The Philippine Star) - February 5, 2016 - 9:00am

MANILA, Philippines – Dismissed Makati mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay Jr. yesterday claimed victory after Judge Dina Pestaño-Teves of the Makati Regional Trial Court Branch 142 denied the motions of Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV to suspend his arrest and hearings on the libel case against him.

In a phone interview, Binay’s lawyer Claro Certeza said Trillanes is left with no choice but to surrender to the court and post a P10,000 bail upon his return from the US.

“Since the motions were denied, it is considered a victory on our part,” he said.

“We are just waiting for the court to set hearings and he (Trillanes) will be given a chance to defend himself. Technically, he has to surrender. Then he has to post a bail bond for warrant of arrest to be recalled.”

Trillanes filed the two motions through his lawyer on Monday afternoon shortly after the court issued the arrest warrant against him, Certeza said.

Trillanes asked the court that the service of the warrant of arrest, as well as the proceedings on the libel case, be suspended since he will be filing a motion for reconsideration before the Department of Justice.

The Makati court issued the warrant of arrest against Trillanes after the DOJ found probable cause to indict him for libel.

Last April 13, then Makati mayor Binay filed a complaint for libel before the office of the Makati City Prosecutor against Trillanes for having claimed that he bribed justices of the Court of Appeals 6th Division to issue a writ of preliminary injunction against the Office of the Ombudsman’s order to have him suspended over his alleged involvement in the supposedly irregular construction of Makati City Hall Building 2.

Binay said Trillanes, in an interview aired last April 7 over several radio and television programs, and in an article published in the April 8 issue of a national daily, publicly claimed that members of the 6th Division of the Court of Appeals were given bribes in millions of pesos in exchange for the favorable action on the petitions for a temporary restraining order and writ of preliminary injunction.

Trillanes was also quoted as saying that 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 article published titled “Trillanes: I will expose Binay paid for TRO,” that he had made the statements “despite the utter lack of evidence.”

Binay said Trillanes himself had admitted during the interview that he had no valid proof or factual basis for his pronouncements.

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, Binay added.

In his complaint-affidavit, Binay cited a ruling that says, “No bona fide efforts 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,” Binay added.

Certeza said police could arrest Trillanes at the airport upon his arrival from the US, but that they would most likely extend to him the courtesy as a senator and escort him without handcuffs to the Makati court to surrender and post bail.

Trillanes does not enjoy parliamentary immunity from the libel case that Binay had filed against him, he added.

Certeza said immunity can only apply while Congress is in session for offenses where the penalty is less than six years.

Congress has no session this week or next week, so he can already be arrested, he added.

Binay to be indicted

Meanwhile, Binay is expected to be indicted for graft and malversation charges before the Sandiganbayan next week after the Office of the Ombudsman denied his motion on the anti-graft agency’s decision finding probable cause to charge him.

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales has ordered the immediate filing of multiple graft, malversation of public funds and falsification of public documents charges against Binay and 22 other former and incumbent Makati officials and employees before the Sandiganbayan.

In three separate Joint Orders approved on Feb. 3, 2016, she affirmed the finding of probable cause against Vice President Jejomar Binay and former mayor Binay for four counts of violation of graft, six counts of falsification of public documents and one count each for malversation for their involvement in the various phases of the construction of the Makati City Hall Building II from 2007 to 2013.

Ordered indicted with them were Marjorie de Veyra, Pio Kenneth Dasal, Lorenza Amores, Virginia Hernandez, Line dela Peña, Mario Badillo, Leonila Querijero, Raydes Pestaño, Nelia Barlis, Cecilio Lim III, Arnel Cadangan, Emerito Magat, Connie Consulta, Ulysses Orienza, Giovanni Condes, Manolito Uyaco, Norman Flores, Gerardo San Gabriel, Eleno Mendoza Jr. and Rodel Nayve.

Also included in the indictment are Orlando Mateo from Mana Architecture and Interior Design Co. (MANA) and Efren Canlas of Hilmarc’s Construction Co.

The Office of the Ombudsman said the criminal charges against Vice President Binay would be filed after the expiration of his term because of his immunity from suit.

In her joint orders, Morales made it clear that the Office of Ombudsman’s authority to investigate Vice President Binay is in accordance with the Constitution, law and jurisprudence.  

The joint orders stated that heads of offices are required to exercise necessary diligence in making sure that proper formalities in a transaction are observed.  

Case investigation records show that the construction of the Makati City Hall Building II was completed in five phases plus one design phase, which periods spanned through the terms of Vice President Binay as mayor to that of his son’s.

No public bidding was allegedly conducted prior to engaging the services of MANA as project designer, as evidence supposedly showed the procurement process was manipulated to ensure the award of contract to MANA, and that four payments totaling P11.97 million were processed and approved despite the incomplete submission of deliverables such as design plans, working drawings and technical specifications.

The Office of the Ombudsman said “the purported negotiation and evaluation of bid proposals in November 2007 was conducted with extraordinary speed” as “for one hour only, the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) completed the entire negotiation proceedings where bid proposals of seven architectural firms that allegedly participated in this multimillion project were opened and evaluated.”

Investigation bared that even the Commission on Audit Fraud Audit Office’s Initial Evaluation Report noted that “the negotiated procurement adopted by the BAC was improper.”

Investigation allegedly found that city officials  colluded with Hilmarc’s to manipulate the outcome of the five “public biddings” for the purpose of ensuring that Hilmarc’s would be awarded the contracts.

The Office of the Ombudsman said construction projects were awarded to Hilmarc’s despite the lack of the required publication of the invitations to bid, with Hilmarc’s as the lone bidder in four phases of the project.

Construction of Makati City Hall Building II – also called the parking building – allegedly began even in the absence of approved design standards, contract plans, agency cost estimates, detailed engineering and programs of work.

No pre-procurement conference was undertaken and bid documents were made available only for one day in violation of procurement rules and regulations.

The Office of the Ombudsman also affirmed the dismissal from the service of mayor Binay and his perpetual disqualification from public service.

In October 2015, the anti-graft agency found mayor Binay guilty of grave misconduct and serious dishonesty which resulted in his removal from office.

The strong evidence presented during the process of administrative adjudication or investigation remained unrebutted, Morales said.  – With Michael Punongbayan              

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