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Sandiganbayan clears Binay of graft charge

By Norman Bordadora
Inquirer
First Posted 05:53:00 10/31/2006

Filed Under:

Published on page A1 of the October 31, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

ROUND 2 has come and gone, and Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay is still standing.

Ten days after the Court of Appeals stopped Malacañang from suspending him, the Sandiganbayan yesterday dismissed the graft charge against the political boss of the country?s financial district in connection with an alleged purchase of overpriced furniture and fittings from 1999 to 2001 for the new Makati City Hall.

The anti-graft court?s Third Division junked the complaint -- filed by the Ombudsman -- for lack of probable cause even before Binay could be formally arraigned.

The court said the complaint failed to cite facts showing bad faith on the part of Binay and his alleged conspirators in the city government and among the private respondents who supplied the furniture worth more than P60 million.

It was alleged that the furniture was overpriced by more than P9 million.

?The information is devoid of any particulars as to how this figure was arrived at,? the court said.

On Oct. 17, Malacañang tried to dislodge Binay from his post by ordering his preventive suspension over allegations by a political rival that he and 16 other Makati officials were keeping hundreds of ?ghost employees? on the city payroll.

Two days later, as Binay put up a defiant stand, the Court of Appeals granted his plea for a temporary restraining order stopping the administration from evicting him from City Hall.

Binay told supporters then that that was just ?Round 1? and that he also hoped for victory should there be a Round 2.

?Clearly, the insufficiency of the information is manifest from the lack of factual averments in the complaint,? read the five-page resolution of the Sandiganbayan?s Third Division chaired by Associate Justice Godofredo Legaspi.

Others accused in the dismissed graft case included then city officials Nicanor Santiago, Luz Yamane, Ernesto Aspillaga, several Jane and John Does, and contractor-firm executives Li Yee Shing, Jason Li and Vivian Edurise.

The Ombudsman alleged that the accused conspired through a rigged bidding to cause the award of the furniture purchase to Office Gallery International Inc.

A separate case involving the same supposedly overpriced furniture filed against Binay?s wife, Elenita, who was mayor from 1998 to 2001, is pending before the four other divisions of the Sandiganbayan.



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