Fort Binay

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As I write this, Mayor Junjun Binay and his entourage are holed up in their makeshift fortress on the 21st floor of the Makati City Hall. They have been there since Wednesday, March 11, steadily building up a resistance against the order of preventive suspension aimed by the Ombudsman at the Mayor and over 20 other city officials.

Possibly at this moment, Vice President Jojo Binay is there as well, in camouflage gear, ready for battle. According to an Inquirer report the Armed Forces of the Philippines said Binay senior, who is a Marine corps reservist with the rank of colonel, is on “inactive status”  and isn’t authorized to wear his uniform. He can be court-martialed for doing so. Well, I’d like to see them try to serve him the warrant.

The Mayor’s camp reached a détente with the Ombudsman on Friday when both parties agreed that Monday, March 16, was soon enough to serve the suspension order. Meanwhile, the Mayor has filed a petition for certiorari with the Court of Appeals and pled for a temporary restraining order. Pending the CA’s action, Junjun Binay has vowed to repudiate the suspension order and hunkered down in his citadel crying justice like one of the Fallen 44.

It is the Mayor’s right to seek judicial review of the order, especially when he and the Ombudsman differ on the interpretation of the statute. In this case, the applicable provision is Sec 24 of RA 6670, or the Ombudsman Law:

Section 24. Preventive Suspension.
— The Ombudsman or his Deputy may preventively suspend any officer or employee under his authority pending an investigation, if in his judgment the evidence of guilt is strong, and (a) the charge against such officer or employee involves dishonesty, oppression or grave misconduct or neglect in the performance of duty; (b) the charges would warrant removal from the service; or (c) the respondent’s continued stay in office may prejudice the case filed against him.

The preventive suspension shall continue until the case is terminated by the Office of the Ombudsman but not more than six (6) months, without pay, except when the delay in the disposition of the case by the Office of the Ombudsman is due to the fault, negligence or petition of the respondent, in which case the period of such delay shall not be counted in computing the period of suspension herein provided.

Binay junior and senior contend that the evidence of guilt is not strong enough to warrant the suspension order. The Ombudsman claims it is. Since the law on its face grants the Ombudsman the discretion to determine that, it would seem that the scales lean toward her. But that is for the Court of Appeals to decide. Let the wheels of justice roll and let us hope they will be swift.

While waiting, both Binays – actually, the whole brood – are milking every bit of emotional, psychological, and political sap out of this. You have to hand it to them; they are masters at verbal legerdemain and can turn any statement on its head. Father and son made Assistant Ombudsman Asryman Rafanan and Interior Sec. Mar Roxas look like petty tyrants even when their observations of Junjun’s histrionics were perfectly sound. Junjun has lately put on magisterial airs with Roxas, saying, “We do not resort to pettiness and name-calling. Secretary Roxas is a lot older than me. I would have expected him to show some maturity. We understand the situation of Secretary Roxas. He is under a lot of stress. We are also undergoing a stressful situation but we rise above it.”  Impressive, no?

Let’s get this straight. Junjun Binay is entitled to due process and may legally question the order against him. I haven’t heard anyone assail his exercise of that right. What has been vilified is his occupation of the Makati City Hall in a dramatic reiteration of his father’s stakeout in 2006. He is not entitled to make the Makati City Hall his rampart. This is a public building constructed with taxpayers’ money meant for the conduct of processes ensuring the efficient operations of the city of Makati and its people’s welfare. Junjun Binay is an elected official, a public servant. The Makati City Hall is not his private enclave which he can sequester at his pleasure, adversely affecting the delivery of services to the constituency.

He even hampered the flow of justice on Friday because the courts, which are housed in the City Hall precincts, were forced to close due to the ruckus. Several lawyers who came to take their oath as notaries public were unable to do so. Many who came to file for licenses and secure documents for business and personal reasons were delayed because the main doors of the City Hall were shuttered for “security reasons” and only one front door was made available for public access. According to news reports, the elevators now only rise to the 17th floor; people with business above will have to take the staircase where security officers guard the fire exits.

The official pronouncement is that the security precautions are necessary and that all efforts are being taken so that no one is hurt. But who is the perceived threat – the officers the Ombudsman sends to serve the suspension order? What can one or two individuals armed only with a document do to upend the Binay gang? The crowds holding vigil at the City Hall quadrangle will take care of them. Says Angel Llanesa, a “consultant” at Barangay Carmona who is keeping watch with the multitudes, “we will block them to prevent them from serving the notice.”[1]

Out of curiosity, I looked up RA 6713, the Code of Ethics and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.[2]  It’s an interesting read, particularly Section 4, which seems especially applicable to this case.

Section 4. Norms of Conduct of Public Officials and Employees. – (A) Every public official and employee shall observe the following as standards of personal conduct in the discharge and execution of official duties:

(a) Commitment to public interest. – Public officials and employees shall always uphold the public interest over and above personal interest. All government resources and powers of their respective offices must be employed and used efficiently, effectively, honestly and economically, particularly to avoid wastage in public funds and revenues.

Paragraph [c] is also worth a look:

(c) Justness and sincerity. – Public officials and employees shall remain true to the people at all times. They must act with justness and sincerity and shall not discriminate against anyone, especially the poor and the underprivileged. They shall at all times respect the rights of others, and shall refrain from doing acts contrary to law, good morals, good customs, public policy, public order, public safety and public interest.

This is a law with teeth, by the way. Note:

Sec. 11. Penalties.
(a) Any public official or employee, regardless of whether or not he holds office or employment in a casual, temporary, holdover, permanent or regular capacity, committing any violation of this Act shall be punished with a fine not exceeding one (1) year, or removal depending on the gravity of the offense after due notice and hearing by the appropriate body of agency. If the violation is punishable by a heavier penalty under another law, he shall be prosecuted under the latter statute. Violations of Sections 7, 8, or 9 of this Act shall be punishable with imprisonment not exceeding five (5) years, or a fine not exceeding Five thousand pesos (P5, 000.00), or both, and, in the discretion of the court of competent jurisdiction, disqualification to hold public office.[3]

(b) Any violation hereof proven in a proper administrative proceeding shall be sufficient cause for removal or dismissal of a public official or employee, even if no criminal prosecution is instituted against him.

xxx

Now, supposing Junjun continues to hold Fort Binay and thereby causes the serious slowdown of services to the detriment of the citizens of Makati, an affected individual might consider applying the cited provisions and penalties to him. It’s possible, not so?

In view of the sanctions described above, it might be altogether better for him to receive the suspension order with grace and have it out with the Ombudsman in the courts. Wasn’t the mantra of the Binay family “the Ombudsman is the proper forum for all these allegations”? If he persists in his theatrics, he may be hit by a sledgehammer he won’t even recognize.

After all, Al Capone was felled by a ledger.


[1] Quoted in “Makati City Hall fiesta: FPJ movies, free food, Zumba, etc.” http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/678803/makati-city-hall-fiesta-fpj-movies-free-food-zumba-etc#ixzz3UMWaOY8S

[2] A copy is available at http://www.dilg.gov.ph/issuances/ra/RA-6713-Code-of-Ethics-and-Ethical-Standards-/1.

[3] Sections 7, 8, and 9 of the Code of Ethics are worth a look too.

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Comments (2)

  1. Issa Galera

    Reply

    Politics and showbiz, two sides of the same coin…this portends the remake of an old telenovela :/

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