IN employing a double standard in the implementation of the Ombudsman’s preventive suspension order against Makati Mayor Junjun Binay, Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Mar Roxas has shown that he is not above playing dirty politics to politically cripple the Binays ahead of the 2016 presidential elections.
There’s a double standard because Roxas is applying the rules differently in the case of Binay than other politicians in a similar situation.
According to the DILG’s statement, at 8:24AM last Monday (March 16, 2015), “DILG NCR Director Rene Brion went to Makati City Hall to implement the Ombudsman’s order suspending Makati Mayor Binay.” However, since Brion “was denied entry into the building, and was prevented from going up to the Mayor’s office…RD Brion posted in full public view a copy of the suspension order…”
At 9:47AM or a little more than an hour after Brion’s posted the Ombudsman’s suspension order, Peña took his oath as acting Mayor before Assistant City Prosecutor Billy Evangelista in a ceremony at the Museo ng Makati in Barangay Poblacion, which was attended by Brion. On the other hand, the Court of Appeals (CA)’s resolution issuing a temporary restraining order (TRO) in favor of Mayor Binay was received by the DILG at 3:09PM.
The DILG therefore claims that the Ombudsman’s order of serving notice to Mayor Junjun Binay had already been carried out. Thus, in a legal opinion issued at the request of Roxas, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima argues that “the temporary restraining order of the [CA] is without legal force and effect because it is already moot and academic” since it was received only after the Ombudsman’s suspension had been served by the DILG and Peña had assumed as acting mayor.
However, as pointed out by former law school dean and fellow litigation lawyer Tranquil Salvador 3rd, the real issue is not about the timing of the TRO issued by the CA but whether or not the Ombudsman’s preventive suspension order was indeed properly served by Brion in the first place.
To answer that issue, Roxas did not have to ask De Lima for help because his own department (i.e. the DILG) previously issued a legal opinion on the proper procedure for the service and implementation of a suspension order.
In DILG Legal Opinion No. 18, 2014 dated May 23, 2014 – which involved a suspension order against the mayor of Isulan, Sultan Kudarat – the DILG said that when the rules of procedure of the suspending body do not specify the mode of service of the order, the provisions of the Rules of Court should apply to fill in any deficiencies in the rules.
In particular, the DILG opinion cited Section 5, Rule 13 of the Revised Rules of Court, which clearly states that the “(s)ervice of pleadings, motions, notices, orders, judgments and other papers shall be made either personally or by mail.”
In the case of Mayor Binay, since the Ombudsman’s rules of procedure also do not say how the suspension order should be served or implemented, the proper procedure should have been – based on the DILG’s legal opinion – to serve the order personally or by registered mail in accordance with the Rules of Court.
As DILG head, Roxas knew, or ought to have known, that serving the suspension order by “posting” it at the entrance to the Makati City Hall is not allowed under the rules. Posting is not one of the modes recognized by law for the valid service of the Ombudsman’s orders or notices.
It appears, however, that Roxas has little patience for legalities. He wanted Mayor Binay out of City Hall before the latter could secure a TRO, even if that meant turning a blind eye to his own department’s rulings.
Roxas’ treatment of Mayor Binay is in sharp contrast to that of his Liberal Party allies such as former Comelec Commissioner Grace Padaca.
We recall that in May 2012, the Sandiganbayan ordered Padaca’s arrest in connection with graft and malversation charges. But even after he took over as DILG secretary in August 2012, Roxas never ordered the police to arrest Padaca. In fact, Padaca’s arrest warrant was never served up to the time she posted bail at the Sandiganbayan almost six months later in October 2012, accompanied no less by Roxas himself.
Since it is common knowledge that Roxas is eyeing the presidency in the 2016 elections, by applying a different rule in Mayor Binay’s case, he is clearly using his office to gain an unfair advantage over his reputed opponent, Vice-President Jojo Binay.
“Ang batas ay batas at lahat tayo ay sakop ng batas (The law is harsh but it is the law and no one is above the law.),” Roxas once lectured Mayor Binay.
Perhaps Roxas should practice what he preaches, first and foremost, by applying the law fairly and equally to everyone, his adversaries included.