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Ombudsman upholds raps vs. VP Binay, Junjun Binay, et al

The Office of the Ombudsman has affirmed its earlier ruling finding probable cause to file criminal charges against Vice President Jejomar Binay, his son dismissed Makati Mayor Junjun Binay, and 22 others over the alleged overpriced construction of the Makati City Hall Building II.

In a statement issued on Friday, the office announced that the respective motions for reconsideration filed by the younger Binay and the other respondents in the complaint were denied by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales through recently signed joint resolutions.

“In three separate Joint Orders approved on 3 February 2016, Ombudsman Morales affirmed the finding of probable cause against Vice President Jejomar Binay Sr. and Mayor Binay Jr. for four counts of violation of Section 3 (e) of R.A. No. 3019, six counts of Falsification of Public Documents, and one count each for Malversation for their involvement in the various phases of the construction of the P2.2billion Makati carpark project from 2007 to 2013,” the office said in a statement.

Last October, the Ombudsman ruled that there was probable cause to file graft, malversation and falsification of public documents cases before the Sandiganbayan against the Binay father and son and 22 other officials of Makati City government over the alleged overpriced construction of the P2.28-billion Makati City Hall Building II, also referred as the Makati parking building.

The Ombudsman said “flagrant anomalies” were found to have been committed by the Binays and their co-accused in the design and construction of the project, which was divided into six phases.

In the three joint orders, copies of which were obtained by GMA News Online, Morales said  “quantum of proof” required for the indictment of Binays and their co-accused “has been met.”

“Construction of the car park building began even in the absence of approved design standards, contract plans, agency cost estimates, detailed engineering and programs of work. No pre-procurement conference was undertaken and bid documents were made available only for one day in violation of procurement rules and regulations,” the resolutions said.

The respondents filed their respective motions for reconsideration except for the older Binay who had earlier maintained that the Ombudsman does not have the authority to investigate an impeachable official such as a Vice President.

In her resolution, Morales, however, maintained that her office has the "authority to investigate Binay Sr. is in accordance with the Constitution, law and jurisprudence."

'What else is new?'

In a statement, Vice President Binay’s media affairs chief Joey Salgado called the Ombudsman “biased” and “partial,” saying its resolutions are merely “political tools” against Binay.

“So what else is new? We have always expected these resolutions from a biased and partial Ombudsman,” Salgado said.

“Simply put, the move of the Ombudsman fits into the orchestrated effort of Mar Roxas, the LP and its allies including Roxas' mouthpieces masquerading as Palace spokesmen, to attack the Vice President,” he added.

The Vice President is the standard bearer of opposition party United Nationalist Alliance (UNA).

Salgado decried the timing of the Ombudsman resolution, noting that it was released just a few days before the start of the campaign period for national positions. The campaign period for national posts starts on Feb. 9.

He noted that the Ombudsman released its first resolution on the cases involving Binay on the same day he filed his certificate of candidacy for president.

“Alam naman ng Ombudsman na hindi pwedeng kasuhan si Vice President, pero itinuloy pa rin nila. Ang agenda ay ipagpatuloy ang mga kasinungalingan at paninira kay Vice President na sinimulan sa Senado at inabot ng mahigit isang taon at 25 hearings,” he said.

“We have never expected fairness and impartiality from the Ombudsman. We look forward to disproving all their allegations in an impartial court,” Salgado added.

No new evidence presented

In its latest ruling, the Ombudsman said the respondents failed to present any new argument on their motions for reconsideration that would warrant the reversal of the original decision.

“On the other hand, respondents failed to point out any newly discovered evidence which could materially affect the outcome of the case, or any error in the appreciation of facts and evidence prejudicial to their interest,” the Ombudsman said in all the three Joint Orders.

“The other grounds raised in respondents’ motions for reconsideration including lack of conspiracy, good faith in the performance of their duties, reliance on the performance of duties by subordinates, and absence of COA finding or notice of disallowance are mere rehashes of the arguments their earlier raised which have been passed upon by this Office,” the Ombudsman added.

However, while the charges against the younger Binay and 22 others were ordered to be filed immediately, the Ombudsman said the filing of cases against the older Binay will have to wait after the end of his term as Vice President.

“The [case] informations against Binay Sr. will be filed after the expiration of his term as VP consistent with the principle that an impeachable officer, while in office, [he] cannot be the subject of a criminal indictment in court, for an offense which carries the penalty of removal from office,” the resolution read.

Morales had earlier admitted that in the event that Binay wins the 2016 presidential election, the filing of charges would have to wait six years.

“As president, of course he has immunity. But when he finishes his term, then we can file a case against him - If we find probable cause finally,” Morales said in an earlier interview.

Impeachable officials such as President, Vice, President and Supreme Court Chief Justice have immunity from suit while they are still in position.

Meanwhile, other respondents ordered to be charged with the younger Binay are the following Makati government officials: Marjorie De Veyra, Pio Kenneth Dasal, Lorenza Amores, Virginia Hernandez, Line Dela Peña, Mario Badillo, Leonila Querijero, Raydes Pestaño, Nelia Barlis, Cecilio Lim III, Arnel Cadangan, Emerito Magat, Connie Consulta, Ulysses Orienza, Giovanni Condes, Manolito Uyaco, Norman Flores, Gerardo San Gabriel, Eleno Mendoza, Jr. and Rodel Nayve.

Also ordered to charged are Orlando Mateo from Mana Architecture and Interior Design, Co. (MANA) and Efren Canlas of Hilmarc’s Construction Company (Hilmarc’s).

No public bidding

Based on the Ombudsman’s investigation, the services of MANA were engaged for the first and second phases or the design stage of the project, without holding a public bidding.

“No public bidding was conducted by Binay, Sr., et. al. prior to engaging the services of MANA as project designer. The evidence showed the procurement process was manipulated to ensure the award of the contract to MANA; and that four payments totaling to P11.97 million were processed and approved despite the incomplete submission of deliverables such as design plans, working drawings, and technical specifications,” the resolution said.

Meanwhile, the younger Binay was ordered charged with the same counts of offenses such as his father, but for his alleged involvement in phases three to six of the project, during his term as the Makati City mayor.

The Ombudsman said that for phases three to six, or the construction stage of the project, the respondents “conspired” to manipulate the outcome of the five public biddings “for the purpose of ensuring that Hilmarc’s Construction Corporation would be awarded the contracts."

“Investigation found that city officials colluded with Hilmarc’s, to manipulate the outcome of the five ‘public biddings’ for the purpose of ensuring that Hilmarc’s would be awarded the contracts. The construction projects were awarded to Hilmarc’s despite the lack of the required publication,” the Ombudsman said.

Younger Binay dismissed

The Ombudsman had earlier ordered the dismissal and perpetual disqualification from service of the younger Binay for administrative offenses of grave misconduct and serious dishonesty also in connection with the alleged overpriced construction of Marking parking building.

Binay Jr. has since appealed his dismissal before the Supreme Court.

In its resolution, Morales affirmed Binay Jr. and the 22 other Makati City officials’ dismissal from service and perpetual disqualification from holding public office.

“Respondents failed to show any newly discovered evidence or error committed by this Office in the appreciation of facts and evidence which was prejudicial to their interest,” a copy of the resolution affirming the dismissal and disqualification order read.

“Respondents’ right to due process was thus not violated as they were duly notified of and given an opportunity to be heard on the administrative complaint filed against them," the resolution added.

Aside from the alleged Makati parking building anomaly, the Binay father and son and a few city government officials are also facing preliminary investigation by the Ombudsman special panel for graft and malversation over the alleged anomalous construction of the Makati Science High School. —with Kathrina Charmaine Alvarez/NB/JST/RSJ, GMA News