CEBU CITY - Vice President Jejomar Binay assailed the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), Department of Justice (DOJ) and Office of the Ombudsman for their "stubborn display of political arrogance" when he spoke at a convention of lawyers here on Friday.
The Vice President told members of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) that the DILG, DOJ and the antigraft body brazenly ignored the order of the Court of Appeals (CA) that stopped the Ombudsman's order to suspend his son, Makati Mayor Junjun Binay, for six months.
"Since when can an opinion and speculation overrule a court order?" Binay asked in his speech at the IBP national convention at a hotel here.
"I am, indeed, thankful that all lawyers of note and legal experts, including our IBP president, have struck a blow for the rule of law by asserting the primacy of the temporary restraining order (TRO) over the unilateral interpretations of the two executive departments and the Ombudsman," he said.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, whose opinion was sought by the DILG after it claimed to have enforced the Ombudsman's decision to suspend Mayor Binay for six months, lashed out against critics who contended that the government's position was without legal basis.
Dime a dozen opinions
"So-called expert opinions are a dime a dozen these days and that is but right because of the constitutionally enshrined freedom of speech," De Lima said on Friday in a speech to a conference of the Rotary International District 3800 in Manila.
"But that doesn't mean all these expert opinions are right, especially when they suggest that those who are legally mandated to actually render an expert opinion is wrong to do so," she said.
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales said on March 17 that the preventive suspension order that she issued against the mayor had been served and implemented by the DILG before the appellate court issued the TRO.
The TRO "has become moot and academic as there is no more act to be restrained," she said.
On March 11, Morales ordered the six-month preventive suspension of Mayor Binay and other Makati government officials who were facing an administrative case for the alleged overpricing of Makati City Hall Building II.
On March 16, the DILG posted the suspension order at Makati City Hall and administered the oath of office on Vice Mayor Romulo "Kid" Peña Jr. as acting mayor at 9:47 a.m. Hours later, Mayor Binay obtained the TRO.
Asked by the DILG about the matter, De Lima said the TRO was without legal force and effect because it was already moot as it came too late in the day.
The Binay camp struck back by filing contempt charges against De Lima, Morales, Peña, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas and other DILG and police officials.
In his speech, the Vice President stressed the need for upholding the rule of law, "without which justice can never prevail nor the stability of the social order be preserved."
"The rule of law provides predictability in the outcome of conflicts arising from transactions in commerce and industry. That is why upholding the rule of law is actually a prerequisite to progress," he said.
The senior Binay was mayor of Makati when the contract to construct the Makati City Hall Building II was awarded to a favoured contractor.
De Lima rebuts CA justice
Speaking at the IBP conference on Sunday, De Lima maintained her stand that the CA had no legal authority to stop the implementation of the preventive suspension of Mayor Binay.
De Lima reiterated that the TRO had been rendered "moot and academic" by the implementation of the suspension order on March 16.
She also cited Section 14 of Republic Act No. 6770, or The Ombudsman Act of 1989, which stated that "no writ of injunction shall be issued by any court to delay an investigation being conducted by the Ombudsman, unless there is a prima facie evidence that the subject matter of the investigation is outside the jurisdiction of the Office of the Ombudsman."
This law opposed what was discussed by CA Associate Justice Magdangal de Leon, who spoke at the convention on the challenges of the appellate practice.
De Leon, a senior member of the appellate court's Ninth Division, said the CA was prohibited from issuing TROs only on decisions or orders of the antigraft office. Since the case involving Binay was for a preventive suspension pending investigation, he said the appellate court could issue a TRO.
But De Lima, who heard De Leon's talk, disagreed. "He was citing jurisprudence. But may I add because it seems to point only to final orders of the Ombudsman," she told the participants at the start of her speech.
De Leon is not handling the contempt petition against the justice secretary.
De Lima then went on to cite the Ombdusman Act of 1989 that prohibited any court, including the CA, from issuing a TRO or an injunction to stop investigations conducted by the antigraft office.
"The essence of the provision is clearly to let the Ombudsman do its job. It has been difficult enough for the Ombudsman to hold powerful people accountable. Now, let us not make it more difficult by allowing court processes to derail its investigations," she said.
In a news conference on Friday, Binay said ignoring the TRO was tantamount to mocking the court. "It is like they were saying the justices were dumb. It is unfair. It is clear that they are defying the rule of law."