By Jejomar C. Binay
Former Vice President
In justifying her decision to defy Malacañang’s order suspending Deputy Ombudsman Arthur Carandang, the Ombudsman once again invoked the Constitution and the rule of law. In her published statement, the Ombudsman said she will not impose the suspension order on her deputy because it was her “sworn duty to uphold the Constitution and the laws of the land.”
The statement drew a sharp retort from Solicitor General Jose Calida, who described the Ombudsman’s act of defiance as an exercise in double standard. The Solicitor General reminded the Ombudsman, who has shown a predisposition to selective memory as well as selective justice, that she had previously ignored a Supreme Court decision when she dismissed and perpetually disqualified my son, former Makati City Mayor Junjun Binay, from holding public office.
Solicitor General Calida was quoted as saying: “When the Ombudsman skewered… Binay by finding him guilty of graft over the Makati parking building, did she respect the Aguinaldo doctrine, which was the prevailing jurisprudence at the time? No.”
A news report said Calida stopped short of calling the Ombudsman a hypocrite. I will save the Solicitor General the trouble and call out the Ombudsman’s hypocrisy.
The condonation doctrine, also referred to as the Aguinaldo doctrine, owes its origin to a decision handed down by the Supreme Court in 1959. Under the doctrine, public officials facing administrative cases are cleared of these cases once they are reelected. Former Mayor Junjun invoked the doctrine in securing a temporary injunction from the Court of Appeals halting his suspension by the Ombudsman. The issue was elevated before the Supreme Court, and the Ombudsman argued that the doctrine does not apply to the former Makati mayor and should be abandoned.
While the case was still pending before the Supreme Court, the Ombudsman ordered former Makati Mayor Junjun’s dismissal from the service and declared him perpetually disqualified from holding public office.
On November, 2015, a month after the Ombudsman released the dismissal and disqualifaction order, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Makati Mayor Junjun. While it abandoned the condonation doctrine, the high tribunal said the application is prospective. The Supreme Court allowed the application of the doctrine in the case of the former Makati mayor.
What is striking is the Ombudsman’s selective application of the condonation doctrine. In the case of my son, the Ombudsman had argued empathically against the doctrine. Yet, she has invoked the same doctrine in justifying the dismissal of complaints against other local officials.
In May, 2015, for example, after the Ombudsman strongly argued against the condonation doctrine before the Supreme Court, she invoked the same doctrine in justifying her decision to dismiss the graft complaint against former Muntinlupa Mayor Aldrin San Pedro. We quote Morales herself: “As for San Pedro, his administrative liability was rendered moot and academic owing to his reelection in the same position in 2010.” What made the case of former Mayor Junjun different? I cannot think of any other plausible explanation except that his surname is Binay.
One would think that the Ombudsman, being a former member of the high tribunal herself, and who is predisposed to reciting the mantra of respect for the Constitution and the rule of law, would abide by the wisdom of the Supreme Court.
But in February, 2016, at the height of the campaign period and in a blatant act of defiance of the Supreme Court, the Ombudsman affirmed its finding of probable cause against former Makati Mayor Junjun over the Makati City Hall Building 2 issue.
By willfully ignoring the ruling of the high court, clearly enunciated, that the abandonment of the condonation doctrine does not apply in the case of former Mayor Junjun, the Ombudsman exposed her double standard, as correctly cited by Solicitor General Calida. Without a doubt, it lifted the veil from her avowed fealty to the Constitution and to the laws of the land and placed on full display her petty vengefulness and partisanship.
In fact, several legal luminiaries, among them the deans of colleges of law, characterized the Ombudsman’s actions as whimsical, capricious, selective, and abusive.
I have no personal quarrel with the Ombudsman, but she has overstepped her bounds on many occasions in her seeming obsession to persecute me and my family.
To prove my point, just a few months after the change in administration, the Ombudsman indicted me for allegedly violating the rules on procurement. The case was based on the results of an unprecedented preliminary investigation conducted despite a Constitutional prohibition when I was still the Vice President. Even when my term of office expired in July, 2016, the Ombudsman did not even ask me to formally file my comments. I was probably the first impeacheable officer to be subjected to a preliminary investigation – without according me the right to file my comments – while still in office.
How then can the Ombudsman claim to speak for rights and due process – as she did last year in response to reports of extra-judicial killings of suspected drug pushers – when she herself observes them selectively?
And let me reiterate that despite her incendiary public statements during the conduct of the highly irregular preliminary investigation, the resolutions issued by the Ombudsman did not find any evidence of alleged overpricing. The indictments merely found alleged lapses in the bidding process. These allegations have been answered substantially by former Mayor Junjun in his official reply but the Ombudsman, as expected, chose to disregard them.
The Ombudsman’s behavior is unjustifiable and scandalous, to say the least. Her high-handed manner of handling complaints against me and the members of my family stands in stark contrast to her kid glove treatment of personalities involved in the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) – declared unlawful and unconstitutional by the Supreme Court – and the slaughter of the gallant 44 members of the Special Action Force (SAF) in Maguindanao. And when it did file the cases, legal observers were one in saying these were prepared and presented in a manner that is certain to ensure dismissal. In street parlance, benta.
I have filed a P200-million damage suit against the Ombudsman and 12 others for repeatedly spreading false allegations against me and the members of my family based on unverified and even fabricated sources. The case is now being heard by the Makati Regional Trial Court. I trust in the impartiality of the courts, and I am hopeful it will hold accountable those who abuse power to malign and destroy reputations.
The sitting Ombudsman flouted the law and the Constitution to bring down political enemies of the previous administration. And even now, with her chief patron out of power and a new administration in office, the Ombudsman continues to use the powers of her office for partisan ends, shielding select personalities from their just reckoning even if it means openly defying the sitting President.
I say enough is enough. It’s hight time that we put a stop to this display of double standard on the part of the Ombudsman, as accurately described by the Solicitor General. If we are to bring back our people’s faith in our institutions, the Ombudsman must go.