MANILA, Apr 22 (Mabuhay) – Why did three Supreme Court magistrates voluntarily inhibit themselves from hearing the Ombudsman’s petition assailing the Court of Appeals decision to stop the preventive suspension order issued against Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin “Junjun” Binay Jr?
Supreme Court spokesman Theodore Te said Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr. inhibited in the case after a news item questioned the magistrate’s continued participation in the case even after his previous inhibition in a case involving Binay’s mother, former Makati Mayor Dr. Elenita Binay.
Velasco explained his continued participation in the younger Binay’s case “might create a misimpression of bias.”
“Justice Velasco nonetheless maintains that he does not know nor has he even met respondent Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay and 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,” he said.
Meanwhile, Associate Justice Arturo Brion said he will inhibit himself from the case because his wife is a “confidential attorney in the chambers of one of the respondent justices in this case.”
For his part, Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza said “his previous participation as a Solicitor General in a pending case before the Court may affect his participation in the current case.”
Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta had previously inhibited himself from participation in the case and did not sit during the the first session of the oral arguments.
Last week, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales directly defended in open court before her former colleagues at the Supreme Court (SC) the 6-month preventive suspension order she issued against Binay involving administrative charges for grave misconduct, serious dishonesty, and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service for the allegedly anomalous P2.7 billion Makati City Hall Building 2.
Morales said “conspiracy was apparent” based on evidence before her office against Binay and his co-respondents.
Morales said that there is a “necessity” to place Binay under preventive suspension in order to “preserve” documentary evidence in connection with the case.
The Ombudsman, however, told magistrates that it has not yet been established whether there is “substantial evidence” against Binay and this will be determined in the course of the continuing investigation. (MNS)