‘Compel Binay Jr. to testify’
The Senate will compel Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin “Junjun” Binay Jr. and other Makati officials to testify if they continue to snub an inquiry into the allegedly overpriced Makati City Hall Building II, Senate President Franklin Drilon said on Friday.
Drilon said the Senate blue ribbon subcommittee investigating the alleged overpricing had the power to order the arrest and detention of Binay and the others if they insisted on ignoring the summons.
But out of respect for his office, Drilon said, the subcommittee did not issue a subpoena for Vice President Jejomar Binay after he declined an invitation.
But it’s a different matter altogether with respect to Mayor Binay and other Makati City officials who refused to return to the inquiry after appearing once, Drilon said.
“They are not above the law,” Drilon told reporters after a speaking engagement at the World Trade Center in Pasay City.
Show cause order
After snubbing last Thursday’s hearing, Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III said the subcommittee would issue a “show cause” order to Mayor Binay and other city officials to explain their repeated refusal to face the inquiry.
The Vice President, on whose watch as Makati mayor the P2.28-billion parking building began construction in 2007, has dismissed the inquiry as a forum to vilify him.
Drilon said the subcommittee would accept a proper explanation from Mayor Binay and the other city officials.
“But should they insist and say, ‘We don’t want to appear before the blue ribbon,’ that’s unacceptable. No one is above the law,” he said.
“If they give a proper explanation, they will be asked to appear the next time around. If they will continuously ignore the Senate, the committee will be compelled to detain them until they testify,” he added.
Drilon said there was jurisprudence sustaining the Senate’s power to compel witnesses to testify at a hearing.
Mayor Binay, through his lawyer, has filed a manifestation asking for the suspension of the hearings pending the resolution of the question of the subcommittee’s jurisdiction to inquire into the construction of the parking building.
He said the subcommittee lacked jurisdiction to look into the matter. He said the Ombudsman had acquired primary jurisdiction over the plunder case filed against the Binays over the parking building.
Sen. Teofisto Guingona III, blue ribbon committee chair, was studying Binay’s claims.
Drilon said Mayor Binay’s manifestation lacked basis because the senators, through the inquiry, sought to establish the truth, and would write legislation to improve antigraft law.
“What they’re saying that the Senate has no jurisdiction has no basis. The Senate is a forum to find the truth, and more important, to find out if the antigraft law needs improvement,” he said.
On Wednesday, lawyers of the Vice President’s son filed a motion requesting the Senate blue ribbon committee to evaluate and rule as a whole on the jurisdictional challenge they filed on Sept. 25.
Mayor Binay’s lawyers slammed the “arbitrary, capricious and whimsical act” of the Senate subcommittee in proceeding with the hearings without resolving the challenge.
Under Section 3 of Resolution No. 5 of the Senate Rules of Procedure on Inquiries in Aid of Legislation, in the event that a jurisdictional challenge is filed, the same must be resolved first before proceeding with any inquiry.
With the ruling still pending, the lawyers asked for the suspension of the inquiry being conducted by the subcommittee in the Makati City Hall Building II.
But the Senate subcommittee decided to proceed with the hearings as scheduled.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.