Golden opportunity

A LAW EACH DAY (KEEPS TROUBLE AWAY) - Jose C. Sison - The Philippine Star

The Ombudsman’s move to formally investigate the Binays and other Makati City officials in connection with the various allegations of corruptions, improprieties and anomalies hurled against them in the Senate, is most welcome indeed. The timing may really be somewhat fishy, but it is nevertheless the right move. It will finally erase all sort of political color now being given to the exposes and put an end to the speculations, innuendos and mudslinging among the central figures in the probe.

Vice President Jojo Binay himself should gladly receive this action of the Ombudsman because it is a golden opportunity for him to remove the lingering cloud of doubt hanging over his reputation as one of the public officials who have enriched themselves in office. Indeed he should even demand for the speedy investigation of the charges so that he could clear his name before the coming presidential elections in 2016 where he is one of the known contenders. He owe the electorate this duty to clear his name so that they will be able to make the right choices on who will be the most qualified as President of our country, in terms of integrity, honesty and competence.

There may be some color of truth to his latest reaction that the Ombudsman’s initiative is politically motivated like the on-going Senate investigation, or that it is designed to draw the public rage and the heat away from President Aquino III who is now being raked in the coals for his many lies and concoctions to extricate himself from any responsibility in the Mamasapano massacre. But such kind of reaction will not in any way convince the people that he has nothing to do at all with the graft and malversation which the Ombudsman is investigating for purposes of finding probable cause to charge him before the Sandiganbayan.

This time the Binays should stop crying political persecution and dismissing the charges as “frivolous and baseless.” They should not adopt the same stance they took in the Senate investigation to the extent of snubbing the probe and refusing to appear in the hearings especially VP Binay. The complaint here was filed after months of evidence gathering by field investigators of the Ombudsman who decided to proceed with the preliminary investigation to afford VP Binay, his son Jun Jun and other Makati City officials involved, to answer the charges and prove that there is no probable cause to indict them before the Sandiganbayan.

The Office of the Ombudsman is the proper forum where the Binays and the other officials implicated in the anomalies can show that the charges are baseless and unfounded. And this can be shown without publicity and without further airing their defense before the bar of public opinion. Their innocence cannot be shown by merely denying the charges before the Press and ascribing all sorts of motives to their accusers like what they are doing now.

It is about time that they should refrain from trying to show their innocence of the charges by merely denying them in public and gaining the people’s sympathy. “Mere denial if unsubstantiated by clear and convincing evidence is a self serving assertion that deserves no weight in law” (People vs. Nelmida, 680 SCRA 386: People vs. Mangune 685 SCRA 578)).  “Denial is an intrinsically weak defense which must be buttressed by strong evidence of non-culpability to merit credibility” (People vs. Colorado,685 SCRA 660).

In this case, the Binays and other Makati City officials will be formally investigated for alleged irregularities in the procurement and awarding of the contracts in the construction of the Makati City Building II. Specifically they are being charged of malversation, falsification and violations of section 3 (e) of RA 3019 or the Anti Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (causing the government or any party undue injury or giving any private party unwarranted benefits or advantages in government concessions) and of the Government Procurement Reform Act.

So they should prove by clear and convincing evidence that the P11.974 million contract for the design and/or architectural services in the construction of the Makati Car Park Building was awarded to MANA after a public bidding; that periodic payments were released to the firm only after its conveyance of the deliverables specified in the contract; and that construction for Phases I and II of said building proceeded with a detailed plan from the firm.

They should also prove that the procurement and award of the construction contract to Hilmarc’s Construction Corp. were not attended by irregularities such as the use of falsified documents to show the purported publication of the notices of bidding and the supposed participation of two other bidders, one of which cannot be found while the other has denied participation.

This is the most opportune time for them to prove that the above accusations have “no basis in fact and in law as repeatedly aired by their lawyers. Those charged especially the Binays should be glad that finally they can clear themselves. And they can do so only by presenting their own positive and convincing evidence and not by mere denials which have no weight in law but only in politics.

People will no longer believe their repeated assertions that the Ombudsman action is but part of an overall operation to discredit VP Binay because he is running for president in 2016. Neither will the people believe that his son who is the incumbent Mayor of Makati City was suspended with undue haste. Preventive suspension for six months, of public officials under administrative investigation for “grave misconduct, serious dishonesty and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service” is provided by law.

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