A division of the Court of Appeals on Monday stopped the Department of Interior and Local Government from implementing the suspension order issued by the Office of the Ombudsman against Makati City Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay Jr.
In a five-page resolution penned by Associate Justice Jose Reyes Jr., the CA 6th Division granted the 37-year-old mayor’s petition for a temporary restraining order (TRO), saying his suspension had to be restrained because of its “possible repercussions on the electorate” of Makati City.
“We resolve to grant the application for TRO . . . In view of the seriousness of the issues raised in [Binay’s] Petition for Certiorari and the possible repercussions on the electorate who will unquestionably be affected by suspension of their effective official, the court resolves to grant petitioner’s prayer for a temporary restraining order for a period of [60 days] from notice hereof, conditioned upon the posting by petitioner of a bond in the amount of P500,000,” the dispositive portion of the CA order read.
Justices Francisco Acosta and Eduardo Peralta, the other members of the 6th Division, concurred with the order.
The DILG however, insisted that Binay is now suspended as the Ombudsman’s order is considered as served.
“As can be seen from the foregoing, the order of the Ombudsman has already been carried out; hence, there is nothing to restrain. In fact, Vice Mayor Romulo Peña already took his oath at 9:47 a.m.,” the DILG said in a statement.
The Interior department said it will seek the opinion of the Department of Justice “in view of these conflicting orders.”
“[Regional Director Renato] Brion posted in full public view a copy of said suspension order, thus carrying out the Ombudsman’s order of serving notice to the mayor,” it noted.
A jubilant Binay held aloft a copy of the decision as he faced reporters in a news conference at the Makati City Hall past noon, or about five hours after DILG officials led by Brion served a copy of his suspension order.
Binay, flanked by United Nationalist Alliance spokesman and Navotas City (Metro Manila) Rep. Tobias Tiangco, lawyer J.V. Bautista and counsel Claro Certeza, said they were “jumping for joy” after they got a copy of the order.
“We were all teary-eyed, we were jumping for joy. I was overjoyed at the same time saddened as I missed the graduation of my daughter this morning. I was watching the video of the ceremony while waiting for the TRO,” he said.
Certeza, the mayor’s counsel, said he hopes the CA would eventually make the injunction permanent.
The CA has scheduled oral arguments on Binay’s case on March 30 and 31 at 2 p.m.
It also directed Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales and DILG Secretary Manuel Roxas 2nd to comment on Binay’s petition within 10 days.
Binay has been holed up in his office on the 21st floor of Makati City Hall since Wednesday after the Office of the Ombudsman announced his preventive suspension for six months in connection with the allegedly anomalous bidding and construction of the Makati City Hall Building 2. Several city officials were also included in the suspension order.
Binay’s camp failed to meet the CA’s raffle cut-off last Thursday. The next day, his case was raffled off to the 6th Division, the same division that was designated to hear a case filed against the Binays by the Anti-Money Laundering Council.
Tension gripped City Hall as hundreds of policemen, some in anti-riot gear, descended on Makati City Hall premises early Monday morning.
At past 8 a.m., National Capital Region (NCR or Metro Manila) Director Renato Brion, appeared at City Hall and marched under heavy guard to the entrance where he taped a copy of the DILG memorandum implementing the Ombudman’s order.
About an hour later, DILG officials were at the barangay hall of Barangay Poblacion, and administered the oath of office to Vice Mayor Romulo Peña as the city’s mayor.
The venue of the oath-taking used to be the municipio when Makati was still a town under Rizal province.
Addressing the public for the first time as “acting mayor,” Peña called on Binay to “follow the will of the people.”
“Sundin po sana natin ang kagustuhan ng taumbayan … sundin po natin ang kautusan ng husgado [Let’s follow the will of the people . . . follow the order of the court],” he said as he also appealed to Binay’s supporters to go home and let City Hall return to normal.
Peña added that he was planning to convene City Hall’s department heads to make sure public services continue.
A few hours later, a smiling Binay called his own news conference and announced that the CA has allowed him to remain as mayor.
“I extend my heartfelt thanks to the thousands of residents whose unwavering support has been our source of strength and courage all this time. To show our gratitude, we in the city government will immediately get back to our duties and resume our normal operations and services for the benefit of the people of Makati,” he said.