The Sandiganbayan’s decision to consolidate the cases against former Vice President Jejomar Binay and his son, former Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay, Jr., contradicts the court’s internal rules and existing jurisprudence, counsels of the former Vice President said.
The court’s Revised Internal Rules explicitly provide that all cases should be raffled and nowhere in the rules does it allow the automatic consolidation of unraffled cases to pending cases before the court, the Subido Pagente, Certeza, Mendoza and Binay (SPCMB) Law Office said.
Citing the transcript of the Sandiganbayan raffle of cases held on July 15, 2016, the law firm said the Raffle Committee chaired by Associate Justice Oscar C. Herrera, Jr. excluded the so-called “Binay cases” from the raffle. These were assigned for consolidation with previously filed cases pending before the Third Division, chaired by Presiding Justice Amparo M. Cabotaje-Tang.
The counsels asked the Sandiganbayan “to abide by its own clear rules, in order for it to be free from the appearance of impropriety and be beyond reproach.”
They refuted Herrera’s statement that the “Binay cases just filed emanated from the same resolution that the basis for the filing of the earlier cases pending in the 3rd Division.”
“With due respect, the consolidated cases do not arise from the same incident or series of incidents, nor do these cases involve common questions of fact and law,” the lawyers said in their motion for reconsideration.
“Had the Honorable Justices read the Informations prior to the automatic consolidation, they would find that the Informations involving Accused Binay, Sr. were totally different and independent from the previously filed cases,” they said.
While the new cases and previous cases filed pertain to the Makati City Hall Building II, the Office of the Ombudsman made it clear that it is treating each of the five construction phases as “separate and distinct charges,” they added.
The lawyers argued that the trial of the former vice president and his co-accused could proceed independently from the first set of cases, as laid down in the case of Neri v. Sandiganbayan.
“As provided by Neri, the different acts will require ‘different sets of evidence and witnesses’ which will unduly prolong the instant cases,” they said.
The lawyers also refuted the Sandiganbayan’s claim that Binay’s co-accused will benefit from the consolidation of the two sets of cases.
“With all due respect, the 1969 case of Palanca v. Querubin cited by the Honorable Court allowed the consolidation because in such case, there was ‘only one offended party, one accused, an identical offense committed in substantially the same way over the same period of time,’ such that criminal informations were couched in almost identical language.”
The undue delay in waiting for the prosecution and their co-accused to present their evidence will violate the right of Binay and his co-accused to speedy trial, the counsels stressed.
“Surely, the Higher Court would not want to let them wait, to suffer the whole length of the trial of all their co-accused, before they could each prove their innocence,” they said.
The cited a ruling of the Supreme Court that “justice has to be administered according to the rules in order to obviate arbitrariness, caprice, or whimsicality.”
“While it is true that a litigation is not a game of technicalities, this does not mean that the Rules of Court may be ignored at will and at random to the prejudice of the orderly presentation and assessment of the issues and their just resolution. Justice eschews anarchy,” the SC ruling stated.