Ombudsman erred in dismissing Junjun Binay, CA says

The Court of Appeals (CA) reversed the ruling of the Office of the Ombudsman to dismiss and perpetually disqualify from government service former Makati City Mayor Jejomar Erwin “Junjun” Binay, Jr. over the construction of the Makati City Hall parking building worth P2.28-billion.

In a 159-page decision penned by Associate Justice Edwin Sorongon, the appellate court dismissed the administrative case against Binay based on the so-called “condonation doctrine” — which bars the administrative disciplining of an elective official for a wrongful act committed during his/her immediately preceding term.

The Supreme Court struck down this doctrine, which was laid down in the Aguinaldo v. Santos case in November 2015 due to lack of basis under the 1987 Constitution.  However, according to the CA it is still applicable in Binay’s case.

The CA said that “the abandonment of the condonation doctrine should not be given any retroactive effect as to prejudice Binay, Jr.” for the acts he allegedly committed when said doctrine was still in effect and duly recognized — referring to the alleged irregularities in Phases III to V of the Makati City Hall Parking Building (MCHPB).

“Considering that the present case was instituted prior to the ruling of the Supreme Court in Carpio-Morales, the condonation doctrine may still be applied,” the CA added.

The appeals court explained that the alleged irregularities that Binay allegedly committed happened before he was elected in 2013.

“Clearly, these pertained to acts which transpired before Binay, Jr., was subsequently elected and continued in public office on May 14, 2013. It is uncontroverted that Binay, Jr. served as the City Mayor of Makati from June 28, 2010, and was re-elected into the same office on May 14, 2013,” the CA said.

The Ombudsman dismissed Binay and 20 others because “flagrant anomalies were found to have been committed by Binay, Jr. and the other respondents in the design and construction of the building consisting of six phases” in its 103-page joint decision in 2015.

According to the Ombudsman, the condonation doctrine could not be applied because the alleged anomalies were committed after his reelection in May 2013, during his second term — which the CA contracted by saying that the disbursement vouchers contested in the case were signed by Binay before he was elected.

“Indubitably, this Court cannot sustain the OMB with respect to Binay, Jr. without utterly disregarding the foregoing pronouncements of the Supreme Court,” the CA held.

“Given the factual circumstances herein and the prevailing jurisprudence, this Court holds that the undisputed and subsequent reelection of Binay, Jr. in the year 2013 is a condonation of his administrative liabilities,” it added.

The CA also dismissed the administrative complaints against Marjorie De Veyra, Cecilio Lim III, Eleno Mendoza Jr. and Virginia Hernandez for lack of jurisdiction.

On the other hand, the CA affirmed the Ombudsman’s ruling over 11 other city officials involved in the case namely City Legal Officer  Pio Kenneth Dasal, City Budget Officer Lorenza Amores, Civil Engineer of the Central Planning Management Office (CPMO) Arnel Cadangan, CPMO chief  Line dela Pena, City Legal Officer Giovanni Condes, Technical Working Group (TWG) officer Rodel Nayve, General Services Department staff Norma Flores, Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) member Ulysses Orienza, CPMO staff Connie Consulta, BAC secretariat Manolito Uyaco and  BAC member Gerardo San Gabriel. 

Ritchel Mendiola

Ritchel Mendiola is a staff writer and reporter for the Asian Journal. You can reach her at [email protected].

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