2nd Ombudsman suspension links mayor to Science HS anomaly
HUNDREDS of supporters of the Binay family on Monday thronged the Makati City Hall grounds as the Office of the Ombudsman once again ordered the suspension of Makati City Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay.
Many were already at the City Hall compound hours before the Ombudsman’s office made the order public at around 4 p.m. The space leading to the main entrance was packed after the announcement was made as more people came in shortly before a truck-load of policemen arrived purportedly to secure the area. A woman interviewed on radio said they were there to protect their mayor.
Process servers however, went to Binay’s residence and served the order.
“Despite efforts to personally serve the 12-page Joint Order, Mayor Binay and his office staff refused to receive a copy of the Joint Order and prevented the process servers to leave the Joint Order in his office.
The process servers thereupon served a copy of the order in his residence,” a statement from the Ombudsman’s office read.
The order likewise directed the Department of the Interior and Local Government to implement the order. Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas 2nd said the DILG has received a copy of the order and he sees nothing irregular in it.
“This is a regular order. The Ombudsman regularly sends out suspension order sa DILG. Ipapaubaya ito — kabahagi ito ng regular na trabaho ng DILG na ipataw o i-serve itong suspension orders na ito. So ipinaubaya na lang natin sa DILG NCR or sa regional office ng DILG na siya naman ang SOT (special operations team) ng DILG sakaling may mga order na tulad nito,” Roxas told reporters in Cebu.
The younger Binay — son of Jejomar Binay who was the city’s mayor since 1986 before his election as vice president in 2010 — was ordered suspended in connection with his supposed involvement in the alleged anomalous construction of the 10-story Makati Science High School building. The project costs P1.2 billion.
The mayor as well as several city officials are facing graft and other criminal and administrative complaints.
Also included in the suspension order were: Assistant Department Head II Pio Kenneth Dasal, Department Head II Lorenza Amores, City Accountant III Leonila Querijero, Acting City Accountant Cecilio Lim 3rd, Department Head II Nelia Barlis, Engineering Assistant Norman Flores, Chief Administrative Officer Giovanni Condes, Administrative Officer V Ralph Liberato, Assistant Department Head II Ulysses Orienza, Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) Secretariat Head Manolito Uyaco, Department Head II Gerardo San Gabriel, Accountant IV Raydes Pestaño, Department Head II Eleno Mendoza Jr., and Department Head II Mario Badillo.
“Since their respective positions give them access to public records and influence to possible witnesses, and considering the apparent repeated and similar schematic pattern applied in these transactions, respondents’ continued stay in office may prejudice the cases filed against them,” the order read.
Monday’s order was the second preventive suspension issued by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales against the younger Binay in nearly four months.
The Ombudsman had issued a similar preventive suspension against Binay in March. The first suspension was spawned by the mayor’s alleged involvement in the alleged overpricing of the Makati City Hall Building II. The Binay camp questioned the suspension and managed to secure an injunction from the Court of Appeals.
Under the Ombudsman Act of 1989, the Ombudsman may preventively suspend any officer or employee pending a probe if it finds that evidence of guilt is strong and when the charge involves dishonesty, oppression or grave misconduct or gross neglect in the performance of duty; the charges would warrant removal from service or; the respondent’s continued stay in office may prejudice the case filed against him.
Preventive suspension shall not exceed six months, without pay.
Binay’s political spokesman said the Vice President will not be cowed by Malacanang’s “harassments” against him and his family.
“In a swift and deliberate reply to the resignation of Vice President Jejomar C. Binay, a suspension order was issued anew against Mayor Junjun Binay by the Office of the Ombudsman,” Rico Quicho said in a statement.
“This precipitate and unduly harsh action demonstrates the undue haste and priority given to investigations against the Vice President and his family, while pussyfooting on the anomalies perpetrated by Liberal Party and administration allies,” he said.
“In a level playing field, all these specious and baseless allegations will be dismissed but the field is stacked against perceived political opponents. We do not expect a modicum of fairness from this administration,” Quicho added.
“We expect more retaliatory and oppressive maneuvers against the Vice President and his family. This is but part of their conspiracy to deny the people the competent and compassionate governance which the Vice President intends to share to the people.”
‘Bring it on’
Malacañang is not backing down from its word war with the Binay camp.
Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda hit back at Binay, saying the vice president keeps on attacking President Benigno Aquino 3rd because he has yet to disprove accusations that he earned kickbacks from allegedly overpriced projects in Makati.
“He [Binay] continues to attack the President because he refuses to answer convincingly all allegations of corruption and ill gotten wealth against him,” Lacierda told reporters.
“We have yet to hear a response other than ‘pulitika lang ‘yan.’ So we say to his camp in dishing out lies against the President – Bring it on,” he added.
A 26-page report by the Ombudsman’s Field Investigation Office (FIO) recommended the filing of graft and falsification of public documents as well as administrative cases of grave misconduct, dishonesty and violation of code of conduct and ethical standards for public officials against Vice President Binay and his son and 19 other officials.
Except for the elder Binay and the private respondents in the case which include the project’s contractors, investigators also recommended that the Makati City officials be placed under preventive suspension pending the investigation of the complaint filed by lawyer Renato Bondal.
The investigators’ report said “there is a showing that respondents mutually aided one another in rigging and pre-arranging, in favor of pre-selected contractors, the procurement and award, including the approval and release of payments thereof” of the P17.3-million deal for the architectural design and engineering services to Infiniti Architectural Works from 2007 to 2008, and six separate construction deals to Hilmarc’s Construction Corporation.
The contracts awarded to the construction firm Hilmarc’s involved the amounts of P99.63 million, P174.51 million, P149.50 million, P394.14 million, P349.56 million and P165.26 million for phases I to VI, respectively, from 2007 to 2014.
WITH JOEL M. SY EGCO, CATHERINE S. VALENTE AND JAYSON LUNA