Lawyer to SC: Stop Binay from leading Boy Scouts
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – A lawyer has asked the Supreme Court to declare as unconstitutional Vice President Jejomar Binay's post as president of the Boy Scouts of the Philippines (BSP).
Lawyer Jesus Nicardo Falcis III filed a petition asking the High Court to declare that Binay committed “grave abuse of discretion” in leading the BSP during his term as vice president.
In the petition for certiorari and prohibition obtained by Rappler, Falcis said the Vice President violated the constitutional prohibition against holding dual or multiple offices. Falcis filed the petition on Thursday, October 29.
“The prohibition against the holding of dual or multiple offices has been characterized by this Honorable Court as a stricter prohibition on the highest officials of the land. The circumvention of such prohibition affects the operation of government and all Filipinos,” said Falcis.
The petitioner said Binay violated Article VII, Section 13 of the Constitution, which states that:
The President, Vice-President, the Members of the Cabinet, and their deputies or assistants shall not, unless otherwise provided in this Constitution, hold any other office or employment during their tenure. They shall not, during said tenure, directly or indirectly, practice any other profession, participate in any business, or be financially interested in any contract with, or in any franchise, or special privilege granted by the Government or any subdivision, agency, or instrumentality thereof, including government-owned or controlled corporations or their subsidiaries. They shall strictly avoid conflict of interest in the conduct of their office.
Falcis also asked the Court to issue a temporary restraining order for Binay to stop discharging his functions as national president of the BSP, pending the resolution of the case.
Binay is the opposition standard-bearer in the May 2016 polls, and faces other cases in relation to alleged corruption when he was Makati mayor of 21 years.
In a statement on Friday, Binay's spokesperson for political affairs Rico Quicho said that the BSP is "sui generis," a class by itself.
“It is not a GOCC in the strict sense of the word.The officers of BSP are not government officials but volunteers. They are elected every year.More importantly, the Vice President does not receive compensation as Chairman,” said Quicho.
In 2012, the High Court ruled that the BSP is a government-owned and -controlled corporation (GOCC), not a private entity. It is then subject to government auditing, among other requirements.
In June, Binay was re-elected national president of the BSP, his 19th year as head of the organization. Former BSP presidents held the position only for a maximum of 7 years.
Over the weekend, Binay even led the opening of the 16th National Scout Jamboree in Tagum City.
Binay's leadership of the BSP was first questioned in Senate hearings into a series of corruption allegations against him. The Senate investigated the alleged anomalous land deal between the BSP and Alphaland, which supposedly shortchanged the organization.
The Vice President was accused of getting P200 million ($4.25 million) in 2010 campaign funds from the deal, a charge he denied. (READ: Did Binay use Boy Scout funds for 2010 bid?)
A Rappler article also detailed how under Binay's leadership of the BSP, the group evolved to accommodate more politicians as leaders of local and regional councils. The story also cited audit reports showing financial lapses of the BSP under Binay. (READ: Shadows over Binay's leadership of Boy Scouts)
Not an exception
Falcis argued that Binay's post as BSP president does not fall under any of the exceptions to the prohibition.
“The President of the BSP is not a Cabinet position. Binay is also not occupying the office in an ex-officio capacity since the Charter of the BSP neither provides it as such nor is it required by the primary functions of the Vice Presidency,” the petition stated.
In previous rulings, the Court identified exceptions to the prohibition on holding dual or multiple offices:
- The Vice President being appointed as member of the Cabinet
- The Vice President acting as President until a President shall have been chosen and qualified
- The justice secretary being ex-officio member of the Judicial and Bar Council
In his LinkedIn page, Falcis identifies himself as a graduate of the University of the Philippines College of Law. He is a new lawyer, having passed the bar in April 2015. He is also a lecturer at the Far Eastern University.
Falcis said he filed his petition as a “concerned citizen.”
“Petitioner submits that the holding by the Vice President of the office of President of BSP is a material and substantial invasion of Petitioner's right,” he said.
He said Binay holding the post of BSP president concurrently with the vice presidency constitutes “irreparable injury since the invasion of Petitioner's right cannot be adequately compensated in damages.”
On procedural issues, Falcis argued that the High Court can decide on the case using its power of judicial review.
“The petition involves a constitutional issue, which concerns a public right or a right that does not belong to anyone individually. The holding of dual or multiple offices does not injure citizens individually but as a group for circumventing a strict constitutional prohibition. It is the interest of any and all citizens to see that the prohibition on the holding of dual or multiple offices is enforced and observed.”
The petitioner also said that the Court will best resolve the case to guide lower courts.
“Petitioner submits that this case is one of first impression. The issues involved in this petition have never been considered, much less resolved, by this Honorable Court.”
A class of its own?
Senators earlier questioned Binay's long leadership of the BSP.
In a hearing in February, Senator Juan Edgardo Angara pointed out that for other GOCCs, the President can change the head of the agency.
BSP's Wendel Avisado then responded that the BSP is “sui generis” or a class of its own.
“The BSP is a voluntary organization so you don’t have to be appointed. You have to be elected,” he said. “Every year, we elect BSP officers. Every member can run for election. But VP Binay is still our president because we trust him to lead us.” – Rappler.com
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