Senate blue ribbon sub-body to rule on turf issues in Binay probe—Guingona
MANILA, Philippines—The Senate blue ribbon subcommittee, and not the mother committee of Sen. Teofisto Guingona III, will rule with finality, on Wednesday, on the jurisdictional challenge of Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay that seeks to stop the probe of the alleged overpricing of the P2.28 billion Makati City Hall II.
Binay earlier asked Guingona to stop the subcommittee hearing until the blue ribbon committee, which he chairs, has decided on the jurisdictional challenge.
But Guingona said on Tuesday, the task of deciding on Binay’s plea on the jurisdiction issue fell under the subcommittee’s powers. He also said the subcommittee must rule first on the jurisdictional challenge filed by Binay and other Makati City personnel before it could proceed with its inquiry.
“Until the jurisdictional challenge is resolved by the subcommittee with finality, it is only logical and proper that the hearings on Senate Resolution No. 826 be held in abeyance,” he said.
The subcommittee is scheduled to hold another hearing on the Makati building on Wednesday (Oct. 8). Its chair, Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III, said on Tuesday, he would ask the subcommittee members to decide on whether it could exercise jurisdiction on the issue.
Pimentel said he would make a recommendation on the jurisdictional challenge first, and would have the subcommittee members vote on this. The vote must be supported by the majority of the members present in the hearing.
If they decide to reject the jurisdictional challenge filed by Binay and several other Makati City Hall personnel, the hearing on the Makati building would continue, according to Pimentel.
He said that if there were no new arguments presented by the Makati officials and personnel, he would not reverse his earlier rejection of the first jurisdictional challenge pleading.
The subcommittee earlier denied the jurisdictional challenge filed by Binay and Ebeng Baloloy (long-time aide of Vice President Jejomar Binay), prompting them to file a similar pleading before Guingona.
But Guingona said that under the Senate rules of procedure governing inquiries in aid of legislation, the subcommittee could perform “any and all acts which the committee as a whole is authorized to do and perform,” except for the power to punish for contempt, which has been placed under the exclusive domain of the mother committee.
Thus, it is Pimentel’s subcommittee that will rule on the jurisdiction issue.
Binay and Baloloy’s pleading on jurisdiction will be considered a motion for reconsideration.
The subcommittee’s rulings on the jurisdictional challenge will be final, and there will be no need to appeal the ruling in the blue ribbon committee, according to Guingona.
Sen. Nancy Binay, the mayor’s brother, said she and her family expected that the hearing would continue, given the conduct of the subcommittee members.
But Senator Binay also said she was surprised why Guingona did not convene the blue ribbon committee, in which she has been sitting as a member, so that it could decide on the jurisdictional challenge.
Aside from Mayor Binay and Baloloy, those who had filed motions questioning the subcommittee’s jurisdiction were Makati legal officer Pio Kenneth Dasal, department heads of the Makati City government, former City Administration Marjorie de Veyra and Prof. Tomas Lopez of the University of Makati.
Mayor Binay and his father, Vice President Jejomar Binay, are facing a plunder complaint for the alleged overprice of the P2.28 billion Makati parking building, or Makati City Hall II, in the Office of the Ombudsman.
The Binay camp, which has denied the building was overpriced, has also criticized the Senate inquiry, saying it was intended to damage the Vice President’s reputation because he intends to run for President in 2016.
Former Makati officials invited to the hearing testified that bidding exercises in the city had been rigged to favor certain bidders and that Vice President Binay, when he was mayor, received kickbacks representing 13 percent of every infrastructure project in the city.
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