Junjun Binay’s ties to Supreme Court justice
When Erwin Jejomar “Junjun” Binay was re-elected mayor of Makati in May 2013, he took his oath before Supreme Court Justice Estela Perlas-Bernabe.
It was a United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) event, apparently planned by his father and the party’s founder, Vice President Jejomar “Jojo” Binay. Held in the elder Binay’s office at the Coconut Palace, it was a maiden show of the Alliance’s presence in politics, more than anything else. (UNA was founded in 2012.)
Senators Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan and Nancy Binay took their oaths before the Vice President and former Senate president Juan Ponce Enrile, respectively. Enrile was one of UNA’s leaders.
UNA personalities like former Senator Ernesto Maceda, UNA secretary-general Toby Tiangco, Representatives Mitos Magsaysay and Sherwin Gatchalian, and former Senator Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri were present.
At the time, few took notice of Junjun Binay as eyes were on his sister, Nancy, the personal assistant of his parents-turned-senator.
Moreover, Perlas-Bernabe was a relatively new appointee of President Benigno Aquino III to the Court. Her quiet demeanor during oral arguments, asking evenhanded questions in an unruffled tone, did not catch public attention. She was yet to pen the decision declaring the high-profile pork barrel or Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) unconstitutional.
Former Makati RTC judge
Fast forward to today. Perlas-Bernabe is the new justice in charge of the Ombudsman’s case versus Junjun Binay. One link of Perlas-Bernabe to VP Binay is this: she was a regional trial court judge in Makati from 2000 to 2004. At the time, Jojo Binay was mayor.
The case, which is pending in the Supreme Court, has to do with the Ombudsman’s further investigation into charges that the Makati City Hall parking building was overpriced. Conchita Carpio-Morales ordered Junjun Binay suspended for 6 months. This is a tool the Ombudsman uses so that access to evidence is not impaired.
The younger Binay questioned the preventive suspension order before the Court of Appeals which stopped the Office of the Ombudsman in its tracks first by issuing a TRO (temporary restraining order) and, soon after, an injunction.
The case fell on the lap of Justice Francis Jardeleza who later inhibited himself because he had taken a position against the condonation doctrine when he was solicitor general – and this was a key argument raised by Mayor Binay. (READ: Junjun Binay test case for Jardeleza)
Other Supreme Court justices who inhibited are Diosdado Peralta, whose sister works in Makati City Hall, Presbitero Velasco, who had earlier inhibited on a case involving Elenita Binay, and Arturo Brion, whose wife worked with Jose Reyes, the Court of Appeals justice who penned the TRO resolution in favor of Junjun Binay. That leaves 11 justices to decide on the case.
The question now is: Will this link of Perlas-Bernabe to the Makati mayor affect the outcome of this case?
Fraternity and Court of Appeals
Two other layers of relationships weave through this high-profile case. Two SC justices – Jose Mendoza and Bienvenido Reyes – belong to the Lex Talionis fraternity with roots in the San Beda College of Law. CA Justice Francisco Acosta, who was one of the 3 justices who issued the TRO, is also a member of this fraternity.
Before Mendoza and Reyes joined the Supreme Court, they were with the Court of Appeals: Mendoza, from 2003-2010, and Bienvenido Reyes, from 2000-2011. They were colleagues of Jose Reyes, the TRO ponente, who joined the CA 2003. We learned that Mendoza and Jose Reyes are rather close friends.
Perlas-Bernabe was also in the CA from 2004-2011.
How all these will play out in this highly political case will have an impact on the Ombudsman as an institution, a frontliner in the anti-corruption program of the government. – Marites Dañguilan Vitug/Rappler.com
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