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Ombudsman calls Binay’s P200 M suit ‘a sham’

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Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales

OMBUDSMAN Conchita Carpio Morales didn’t mince words in asking the Makati Regional Trial Court to dismiss the suit filed by Vice President Jejomar Binay against her and 12 other persons including senators Antonio Trillanes IV and Alan Peter Cayetano and the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

“Considering that the Complaint appears to be patently bereft of the merit, the only inescapable conclusion is that plaintiff Binay’s suit is a sham,” she said.

Morales reply also dismissed Binay’s complaint as “an obvious publicity stunt calculated to harass and intimidate” her knowing that she will be the final approving authority in the event that the recommendation of the 2nd Special Panel handling the preliminary investigations is adverse to him.

Binay asked for P200 million for damages from the respondents who also include Caloocan Rep. Edgar Erice, former Makati Vice-Mayor Ernesto Mercado, former Makati official Mario Hechanova, former Makati barangay official Renato Bondal, Nicolas Enciso, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Amando Tetangco Jr, Insurance Commissioner Emmanuel Dooc, Securities and Exchange Commission chief Teresita J. Herbosa, and Julia Abad of the Anti-Money Laundering Council.

Vice President Jejomar Binay
Vice President Jejomar Binay

Binay said Morales and the other respondents issued statements damaging and prejudicial against him.

Binay has been the subject of a Senate investigation on the allegedly overpriced Makati City Hall parking building which has expanded into other issues like his sprawling hacienda in Batangas and led to the freezing of his bank accounts by the Anti- Money Laundering Council.

He faces plunder charges which are being investigated by the Ombudsman.

His son, Makati Mayor Jun-jun Binay, has also been implicated in the investigation on anomalous transactions in Makati. The younger Binay has been suspended by the Ombudsman.

On the defense of Binay that he is immune from suit because he, as vice president, can only be removed by impeachment just like the President, Morales said his being “an impeachable officer does not ipso facto free him from being the subject of investigations.”

“It bears emphasis that he is being investigated for criminal acts allegedly committed when he was City Mayor,” she said.

Morales said even impeachable officers are within the jurisdiction of the Office of the Ombudsman.

Morales said the Constitution underscores that “public office is a public trust. No official, from the lowest to the highest, is exempt from accountability when it gave the Office of the Ombudsman the power to investigate any serious misconduct in office allegedly committed by officials removable by impeachment, for the purpose of filing a verified complaint for impeachment (R.A 6770).

“What the 1987 Constitution contemplates respecting impeachable officers is that during their tenure or term of office, they cannot be subject of criminal offenses filed with the court, which carry the penalty of removal from office or any penalty, the service of which amounts to removal from office,” the Ombudsman said.

Morales stressed: “The Office of the Ombudsman is not a court. It cannot thus impose any penalty amounting to removal from office in relation to pending criminal complaints. It may, however, after the termination of the preliminary investigations, recommend the indictment of the therein respondent if probable cause is established or, if warranted in cases involving impeachable officers, the filing of an impeachment complaint under Article XI, Section 2 of the 1987 Constitution; conversely lack or paucity of evidence presented at those investigations may lead to the dismissal of the criminal charges.”

The Vice President, Morales said, cannot challenge the conduct of an inquiry by the Office of the Ombudsman simply because he is an impeachable officer.