Binay son arrest ordered; mayor defiant but ready
MANILA, Philippines–Saying a summons from the blue ribbon committee should not be taken lightly, its chair, Sen. Teofisto Guingona III, on Monday ordered the detention of Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay and five others for their repeated refusal to appear at its subcommittee hearings on the allegedly overpriced Makati City Hall Building II.
The order came after Guingona cited in contempt Binay, Makati City Administrator Eleno Mendoza, former Administrator Marjorie de Veyra, Assistant City Engineer Line de la Peña, alleged Omni Security Investigation owner Bernadette Portollano and Eduviges Baloloy, supposedly the personal secretary of Vice President Jejomar Binay.
Guingona’s motion was seconded by Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, who had initiated the hearings.
“We have to follow the rules of the blue ribbon committee. We have to protect the institution of the blue ribbon. If the Senate blue ribbon summons you and you have no valid excuse, you have to show up,” Guingona told reporters.
“Rules are rules and they apply to everyone,” he added.
Ready to be arrested
Speaking to about 3,500 of his supporters gathered outside City Hall, Mayor Binay announced that he was ready to be arrested, to which the people objected with a loud “No.”
“But this does not mean that our fight is over, this is just the start,” the mayor said to the obviously disappointed crowd.
But Binay and the other resource persons got a reprieve from their arrest for one night.
Because of questions raised about the blue ribbon committee proceedings, the implementation of the detention order against them has been held in abeyance.
In a press conference at Makati City Hall, Mayor Binay said he “will wait for the Senate sergeant at arms to serve the detention order and I am ready to be detained.”
The mayor noted that he had already packed some of his clothes in preparation for the decision of the blue ribbon subcommittee.
Considered an accused
“I am not asking for any special treatment. All I am asking for is fairness and due process which were not clearly given to me when I submitted myself as a resource person during the first hearing,” he said.
He said that during that hearing, he felt he was considered an accused and was already prejudged by members of the subcommittee.
“My answers were usually cut and they were already mocking me. This was also the same thing they did to the other city officials invited during the other hearings,” Binay said.
He said that all he was asking for at the time was to be furnished an advance copy of the questions before attending the hearings, a right that he said was upheld by the Supreme Court in its rulings. He was denied of this right, the mayor said.
The Senate probe is looking not only at the irregularities in Makati when Vice President Jejomar Binay was its mayor but also at his alleged ill-gotten wealth.
Under the Senate’s rules governing inquiries in aid of legislation, the committee chair, with the concurrence of at least one committee member, may punish or cite for contempt any witness who disobeys an order of the committee or refuses to be sworn in or to testify or to answer a proper question by the committee, or who falsely testifies.
A majority of all the members of the committee may reverse or modify the order within seven days.
The blue ribbon committee rules also state that two members of a committee shall constitute a quorum to do business or to conduct hearings or act on motions and other related incidents.
But acting Minority Leader Sen. Vicente Sotto III on Monday raised questions about the validity of the blue ribbon committee hearing.
Sotto said that while the presence of only two members of the committee may be enough to constitute a quorum when conducting hearings in aid of legislation, it was a different matter for meetings to cite resource persons in contempt.
He said more senators should have been present when deciding whether to cite a resource person in contempt. Under Senate rules on meetings, one third of the regular members of the committee shall constitute a quorum, Sotto said.
The blue ribbon committee has 17 regular members and three ex-officio members.
Senate President Franklin Drilon referred Sotto’s queries to the rules committee of Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano and asked the latter to resolve the issue.
Cayetano, however, believes that the blue ribbon committee had followed the rules properly and that its decision would stand scrutiny in court.
Sen. Francis Escudero asked whether the blue ribbon committee had to wait for seven days to implement the detention order, since a majority of the members may still reverse its order during this period.
He wondered whether the committee could implement the order immediately and risk being reversed by a majority, or whether prudence dictated it wait for seven days.
Drilon referred the issue to the rules committee as well.
School head spared
Escaping punishment for contempt was Tomas Lopez, president of the University of Makati and a trustee of the Home Development Mutual Fund, or Pag-Ibig, who sent a letter to the blue ribbon committee manifesting his intention to appear at its next hearing.
In his letter, Lopez said he had not ignored the subcommittee’s subpoenas. Upon the advice of his lawyer, he requested that he be furnished copies of the questions to be asked of him so that he could prepare.
But since his request was rejected, and against the advice of his own lawyer, he planned to attend the next hearing of the subcommittee.
With Lopez’s commitment, subcommittee chair Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III withdrew his recommendation to have Lopez cited for contempt.
Detention in Senate
Guingona said the sergeant at arms may coordinate with the Philippine National Police in enforcing the detention order. The resource persons are expected to be detained in the Senate.
The detained resource persons would be expected to appear at the next hearing of the subcommittee, he said. Asked if the resource persons would be released if they attend the next hearing, he said that would be up to subcommittee to recommend.
Only Guingona, Trillanes and Pimentel were present at the committee’s meeting on the contempt issue on Monday.
Mayor’s sister inhibits
Sen. Nancy Binay, a committee member, has inhibited herself from the hearings on Makati issues because her brother and father are involved in the issues being tackled.
Senator Binay, who criticized the committee’s decision, said she would focus on taking care of her brother’s four children, whose ages range from 5 to 12 years old, once the mayor is detained.
The Makati mayor is a widower.
“You know his children don’t have a mother and now their father will be gone. That’s the hardest and most painful for me,” a teary-eyed Senator Binay told reporters.
“There are many people who shouldn’t be dragged into this, but because of the personal ambition of some people, they don’t care who they injure or hurt so long as they can rise to power in 2016,” she added.
Mayor Binay attended only one hearing of the subcommittee and has failed to appear in subsequent hearings.
After attending the first hearing in August last year, the Makati mayor did not show up in the succeeding proceedings and challenged the jurisdiction of the committee but the Senate subcommittee ruled against it.
Matter of principle
Binay said he would stand by his decision not to attend the hearings of the subcommittee, saying that this is “already a matter of principle” and his way to fight for justice.
“The decision of the Senate blue ribbon committee pains me, but fighting for what I believe is right in order to put a stop to the abusive use of power of some senators is a matter of principle,” Binay said, but clarified he was not going against the Senate.
“I deeply respect the Senate as an institution. But it was not I who had tarnished its dignity. The three senators and their so-called witnesses have been destroying its good name and integrity as an institution,” he added, referring to Senators Cayetano, Trillanes and Pimentel.
Binay also slammed the selective application of rules of the subcommittee, explaining that there was “extreme prejudice” among the members in how they gave weight to the testimonies of their accusers.
Rules committee meet
The rules committee will meet Tuesday to resolve the questions of Sotto and Escudero on the quorum and when to implement the order, according to Cayetano, its chair.
Also to be discussed is whether the detention or arrest order would have to be signed by the Senate President, not just the committee chair.
If the blue ribbon’s committee’s proceedings are deemed valid, the arrest may be implemented Tuesday. If there are infirmities found in the committee proceedings, Cayetano said he would then have to have a talk with Guingona.
Cayetano said the deferment of the detention order’s implementation would not have any effect on the subcommittee’s hearings on issues involving the Vice President. Another hearing is scheduled on Thursday.
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