Senator Santiago backs Ombudsman, SC: "Gobenciong case" - Binay should leave Makati City hall

Mayor Junjun Binay vs Senator Miriam Santiago-

Ombudsman not liable for acting quickly on Mayor Binay suspension—Santiago

MANILA, Philippines — Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales and other concerned officials were not liable for immediately implementing the suspension order on Makati City Mayor Jejomar Erwin “Junjun” Binay, Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago said on Wednesday.

Santiago was reacting to a contempt case filed by Binay against the Ombudsman and other officials for defying a temporary restraining order issued by the Court of Appeals on his suspension. It was the Office of the Ombudsman that issued the preventive suspension order on Binay in connection with the allegedly anomalous Makati City Hall 2 carpark building.

But Santiago pointed out that in the 2008 case of Gobenciong v. Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court ruled: “The Office of the Ombudsman can, as a matter of statutory empowerment, validly order the immediate execution of a preventive suspension after determining the propriety of the imposition, regardless of the remedy of reconsideration made available under the law to the suspended respondent.”

“Thus, the Ombudsman can order the immediate suspension of a sitting mayor, who is not allowed to plead that he needs time to file a motion for reconsideration,” the senator said in a statement.

Santiago said that in the Gobenciong case, the high tribunal rejected the argument that the sitting official was denied due process of law, just because the suspension was immediately implemented.

“In the Gobenciong case, the Supreme Court said there was no legal basis for the argument that immediate implementation of the preventive suspension would deny due process. In fact, the Supreme Court added that since preventive suspension is not a penalty for an administrative offense, preventive suspension can be imposed without prior hearing,” she said.

The SC, she said, denied the motion to cite the Ombudsman in contempt on the ground that it had “become moot and academic for the preventive suspension had been served.”

Under the Gobenciong ruling, Santiago said the Ombudsman could not be held in indirect contempt because under the Rules of Court there was no “disobedience of or resistance to a lawful writ of a court.”

“A contempt order usually arises according to the Rules of Court for ‘any improper conduct tending, directly or indirectly, to impede, obstruct, or degrade the administration of justice.’ It is not the case,” she said.

But Santiago also pointed to a 2011 case, Strategic Alliance Development Corp. v. Star Infrastructure Development Corp. where the Supreme Court held: “Although the general rule is to the effect that a writ of preliminary injunction cannot be issued against acts already fait accompli it has been held, however, that consummated acts which are continuing in nature may still be enjoined by the courts.”

She said this “apparent collision” between the 2008 Gobenciong case and the 2011 Strategic Alliance case should be resolved by the Court of Appeals.

One of the petitioners, she said, might also elevate the case on a petition for review on certiorari concerning a question of law to the Supreme Court, which has discretion on whether to pass upon the petition. - INQUIRER


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