Sandigan thumbs down Binay worry over travel arraignment
MANILA — The Sandiganbayan has denied the plea of former Vice President Jejomar Binay to modify the standard terms of his conditional arraignment prior to his upcoming pilgrimage in the Holy Land.
In an eight-page resolution on Monday, the Third Division rejected Binay’s fear that accepting the standard conditions would make him lose his rights and legal remedies later on.
As a precondition for permission to go to Israel from May 15 to 29, Binay would have to be conditionally arraigned on Wednesday afternoon under the usual terms imposed on defendants traveling abroad.
The anti-graft court usually requires conditional arraignment before granting travel authority to an accused who has yet to be formally arraigned. This serves as an assurance that he could be tried in absentia in case he fails to return to the country.
Binay’s camp plans to file a motion to quash the charges if the Supreme Court grants his petition challenging the validity of the Ombudsman’s investigation, which was held when he was still a vice-president immune from suit. But, such a remedy has to be filed before regular arraignment.
On April 21, Binay asked the anti-graft court to amend the provision which would convert conditional arraignment to regular arraignment in case prosecutors decide to re-investigate the case and proceed.
Instead, he is asking the court to “automatically nullify” his conditional arraignment as soon as he appears before the clerk of court upon returning to the Philippines. He also wanted the conditions to specifically state that “Accused is not waiving any rights and remedies under the law.”
This reflects wariness of the “uncertainty” of losing his right to file a motion to quash or motion to dismiss the case, remedies which should be filed before he is formally arraigned.
The court, however, found “no justifiable reason” to grant Binay’s motion. It has agreed with the prosecution that his concern of losing his legal remedies is “more apparent than real,” especially as prosecutors are not currently re-investigating the case.
“Hence, his conditional arraignment, should he choose to undergo the same, will not ripen into a regular arraignment,” the court assured Binay.
Although the court has acknowledged that the conditions are not set by the Rules of Court or its Revised Internal Rules of Procedure, it noted the Supreme Court has recognized the practice in several rulings.
The court also did not find the situation “extraordinary enough” to warrant a deviation from normal procedure. It found no connection between the conditional arraignment and the validity of the investigation now being challenged at the Supreme Court.
“His right to question his indictment in these cases will neither be lost nor barred should the Supreme Court eventually grant his petition,” the resolution stated.
Presiding Justice Amparo M. Cabotaje-Tang, who chairs the division, penned the resolution. Justices Sarah Jane T. Fernandez and Bernelito R. Fernandez concurred.
Upon losing his immunity in July, Binay was charged with graft, malversation and falsification for the allegedly rigged bidding for the Makati City Hall car park building. He has not been arraigned yet due to the various motions for judicial determination of probable cause currently challenging the indictment. SFM/rga
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