Trial of Elenita Binay suspended
Former Makati City Mayor Elenita Binay’s graft trial has been suspended after she asked Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang not to take part in the proceedings, questioning the judge’s impartiality.
The Sandiganbayan Third Division was to begin on Tuesday Binay’s trial on four consolidated graft and malversation cases, but Tang announced “all hearings scheduled for this case are suspended” until the former mayor’s Nov. 11 motion for inhibition of the top justice of the antigraft court is resolved.
In seeking the inhibition, Binay told the court that Tang’s statements during the Oct. 13 hearing on her motion to reraffle the four cases to different divisions gave an “appearance of bias and prejudice” against the ex-mayor.
These cases arose from the allegedly overpriced procurement of P45-million worth of sterilizers and hospital beds for Ospital ng Makati from 2000 to 2001.
Binay’s lawyers said consolidating all four cases violated her rights because it created an impression of a “pattern” of irregularities, which amounted to a prejudgment. They added that raffling off the four cases to other divisions would avoid the impression of bias on the part of the Third Division.
During the Oct. 13 hearing, Tang asked the defense panel if they were questioning the court’s impartiality.
“If you are now saying that there should be appearance of impartiality, you are somehow casting aspersion on the impartiality of this court,” Tang told lawyer Grace Veronica Reyes then.
This exchange prompted Binay’s lawyers to seek Tang’s inhibition because the judge “gave an impression that she was personally offended by the filing of the omnibus motion” to reraffle the four cases.
They said resolving their motion for inhibition “would put to rest all the apprehensions as to the personal inclinations of the Honorable Presiding Justice and would uproot vestiges of doubt on the impartial disposition of the cases” against Binay.
Since 2011, Binay has won three cases in connection with alleged overpriced city hall furniture from 1999 to 2000 in three different divisions, the latest on Nov. 17 when she was acquitted by the Fourth Division.
She has another case also involving overpriced furniture pending before the Fifth Division.
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