Peña is Makati mayor–DOJ
MANILA, Philippines–As far as Justice Secretary Leila de Lima is concerned, Romulo “Kid” Peña Jr. is the legitimate mayor of Makati.
Supporting the Department of the Interior and Local Government’s (DILG) position, De Lima on Wednesday said the temporary restraining order (TRO) that Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin “Junjun” Binay obtained from the Court of Appeals (CA) last Monday to stop the Ombudsman’s suspension order against him was already “moot” as the order had already been served before the TRO’s release.
This was also the position of Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales who issued a manifestation on Tuesday, telling the appellate court that the preventive suspension order that she had imposed on Binay had been served and implemented by the DILG before the court issued its TRO.
Morales ordered the six-month preventive suspension of Binay and other Makati government officials on March 11 in connection with an administrative case they are facing over the allegedly overpriced Makati City Hall Building II.
TRO, not injunction
If at all, De Lima said on Wednesday, the TRO effectively preserved not Binay’s continued stay at City Hall, but the state of affairs at the time it was issued on Monday afternoon: the suspension order had already been served and Peña, the Makati vice mayor, had already been sworn in as acting Makati mayor.
“It’s clear that what was issued was a TRO, not a preliminary injunction, not a status quo ante order,” said De Lima, referring to the two other kinds of court reliefs that in effect preserve the status before the commission of a certain act.
“A TRO prevents something from happening. But what is supposed to be prevented (suspension) had already happened… So it’s clear that the TRO is already moot and academic,” she said.
“The status quo that was preserved or was sought to be preserved by that TRO was when the Vice Mayor (Peña) had already taken his oath. That is the status quo. That is the situation now,” she said.
She said the DILG has to ensure that Peña is able to perform his duties as acting Makati mayor.
Correcting the order
De Lima said the DILG could go back to the appellate court “and seek a correct order.” But any order that comes out of the appellate court now will have to be heard first or set for hearing, and not issued ex parte (without notification or representation of other parties), she said.
De Lima’s interpretation of the TRO also rendered moot the contempt case that Binay filed at the appellate court on Tuesday against Peña, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas and several police officials for defying the TRO.
“Where’s the contempt there when the TRO was issued late, when [the suspension] was already implemented?” De Lima said.
Roxas on Wednesday also dismissed the filing of contempt charges against him and other officials, saying it had no basis.
“The DILG merely acted as an agent of the Ombudsman in implementing the suspension order [against Binay],” he said in an e-mailed statement.
If his department had failed to enforce the Ombudsman’s order, “then there would have been basis to cite the DILG in contempt,” he said.
“Therefore, any case for contempt filed against the DILG should not prosper given that the DILG was merely carrying out its deputized ministerial task of implementing the Ombudsman’s order and consistently acting in consideration thereof,” he said.
Meanwhile, Binay, who has been sleeping at his City Hall office since the Ombudsman issued the suspension order last week, continues to refuse to vacate his office, insisting that he is still the mayor of Makati because of the TRO.
“I really want to go home and be with my kids but we have to fight for the mandate of the people of Makati,” Binay said.
The DILG should respect and follow the Court of Appeals’ 60-day TRO on his suspension, he said.
“I have a clear mandate from the people of Makati and that should be followed,” Binay said.
Asked why he refuses to leave city hall, Binay said he was afraid there would be “a takeover” if he leaves.
He said the presence of about 100 policemen from the Southern Police District (SPD) on the grounds of City Hall, particularly at the old municipal building, was creating an “abnormal” atmosphere in the city.
Senior Supt. Elmer Jamias, SPD director for administration who is the ground commander of the forces at the City Hall, earlier explained that the presence of the police was to maintain order.
“We do not want any untoward incidents to happen, especially between the supporters of Binay and Kid Peña,” Jamias said.
To prove that he is still the mayor, Binay signed on Wednesday some documents such as remittances, cash advance forms and contracts from the different departments.
“There should be no confusion here. They (the DILG) are the ones creating confusion, that’s why I appeal to Mar Roxas to stop this kind of dirty politics because at the end of the day, they are making things difficult for the people,” he said.
Binay received the support of the city council. “We believe that the rule of law should be followed and this should be what the CA dictates,” said Councilor Marie Alethea Casal-Uy, who spoke on behalf of the city’s 17 councilors.
My duty to take over
Peña insisted that he was the acting mayor after he took the oath when the suspension order against Binay was served last Monday.
“He was suspended and as vice mayor, it is my duty to take over as head of the city,” Peña said. He did not want the situation but it so happened that he was the vice mayor, he said.
Peña said he was just waiting for the papers stating his assumption of office and directives from the DILG before he shows up at City Hall.
“That should be my place of office as acting mayor and we believe that it is high time Mayor Junjun steps down and follows what the law dictates,” he said.
Peña questioned Binay’s signing of documents saying that legally, that should be his duty as acting mayor.
In the meantime, Peña is holding office at the headquarters of his motorbike team at D. Oliman Street inBarangay Valenzuela. His staff tried to set up a makeshift office at the hallway on the ground floor of the old municipal building since all the rooms there have been padlocked. Binay said Peña has “no authority to open the rooms there.”–With Marlon Ramos
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