MANILA (Mabuhay) – Vice Mayor Jejomar Erwin “Junjun” Binay has asked Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and two other Supreme Court justices to inhibit from hearing his petition contesting his six-month preventive suspension for the allegedly overpriced Makati Building II construction.
In a 46-page page motion, Binay said Sereno, and Chief Justices Antonio Carpio and Martin Villarama, Jr. should not be involved in deciding his case and instead recuse under Rule 137, Sections 1 and 2 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure.
Binay said Sereno’s actions during the oral arguments on the Binay case during the SC summer session Baguio last April 21 presented a strong case for her inhibition when “juxtaposed with the Canons of the New Code of Judicial Conduct,” particularly Canon 2 (integrity), Canon 3 (impartiality), and Canon 6 (competence and diligence).
The vice mayor accused Sereno of having “pre-conceived bias against a doctrine which is a crucial component of the case for the respondent, condonation; and has manifested bias, prejudice and partiality against respondent’s case.”
Sereno also allegedly made statements that signified intolerance, antagonism, and abhorrence of Binay, read the motion.
He said that Sereno’s act of defending the Office of the Ombudsman and its finding of probable cause against Binay showed the chief justice’s “hostility” against the vice mayor.
Binay noted how Sereno came prepared with a 70-slide powerpoint presentation on her position on the issue. The vice mayor said Sereno’s presentation, interpellation of Binay’s lawyer Sandra Marie Olaso-Coronel, and the lawyer’s response lasted a good 45 minutes.
Binay described how Sereno “launched into a full-scale condemnation of the doctrine of condonation, not mincing words in showing her frustration with and indignation at the doctrine.”
The condonation doctrine, adopted from US jurisprudence and first appeared in an SC ruling in 1959, states that re-elected officials cannot be held administratively liable for offenses during a previous term because their re-election meant their constituents have already forgiven them for their offenses.
60 times interrupted
Binay also noted how Sereno “put his legal counsel in her place as her ‘former student,’” and was repeatedly dismissive of the fact that Coronel was merely invoking the 56-year-old doctrine.
Binay said his counsel was interrupted 60 times by Sereno without being given an opportunity to fully articulate her positions.
“The chief justice [employed] a condescending and accusatory tone, pointing a finger at her [Coronel] numerous time, as she was asked to ‘face’ her ‘conscience’ in the decision to apply the condonation doctrine, as it must be applied by counsel, being relevant to the respondent mayor’s case,” read the motion.
“It is submitted that the hostility and antagonism shown to [Binay’s] counsel is short of the expected temperate, patient and courteous conduct and language of a judge, more so a chief justice,” it added.
Cousins, ‘my lawyer’
As for Carpio, Binay said the senior magistrate should inhibit because it is a “matter of public record and public knowledge” that he is the first cousin of Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, the one who suspended the vice mayor and a petitioner in the SC case on Binay’s suspension. Carpio and Carpio-Morales’ fathers are brothers.
“Clearly, they are relatives within the sixth degree of affinity, for which reasons, the recusal of Carpio from instant case is not only warranted but expressly mandated by the Rules of Court.
Justice Villarama, according to Binay, meanwhile manifested his closeness to the Office of the Ombudsman when he said during oral arguments that he learned from “my lawyer from the Ombudsman… that the city hall officials have been ignoring subpoena duces tecum issued to them by the Ombudsman.”
Binay said Villarama’s reference to “my lawyer” and the information that lawyer relayed to the magistrate ran afoul Canon 1 (independence) and Canon 4 (propriety) of the New Code of Judicial Conduct.
Earlier, a total of four other justices have voluntarily inhibited from the case: Diosdado Peralta, Presbitero Velasco Jr., Arturo Brion and Francis Jardeleza.
Velasco, through SC spokesman Theodore Te, later explained his continued participation in the case “might create a misimpression of bias” because he had previously inhibited in a past case involving Junjun’s mother, former Mayor Elenita Binay.
“Mr. Justice Velasco nonetheless maintains that he does not know nor has he even met respondent Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay,” Te told reporters in Baguio last April.
Velasco’s inhibition from the case involving Mrs. Binay, however, was due to a different reason.
“His previous recusation in the case involving the mayor’s mother was not due to his relation to Dr. Binay but that he knew one of the parties in the earlier case,” said Te.
As for Brion, Te said the magistrate’s wife is a confidential attorney in the chambers of one of the CA justices from the Sixth Division.
Jardeleza, meanwhile, distanced himself from the case because “his previous participation as solicitor general in a pending case before the court may affect his participation in the current case.”
Jardeleza, then a solicitor general, was appointed to the SC last August 2014. (MNS)