Source: Manila Bulletin
The Senate Blue Ribbon subcommittee finally arrested yesterday Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin “Junjun” Binay, only to release him later after he refused to face the panel.
Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel Jr., head of the Senate sub-panel tasked to investigate the alleged overpriced Makati City Hall Building 2 and other alleged anomalies allegedly committed by the mayor’s father Vice President Jejomar Binay, decided to free the mayor after he manifested that he will no longer answer questions of the subcommittee.
“Wala naman itong personalan. We were only enforcing the processes of the institution,” Pimentel reasoned out.
“Ang theory ninyo is wala kaming jurisdiction but if you believe in your theory then I think it’s time to run to a referee, to a third party to tell us the correct interpretation of the situation and of the Senate rules,” he said.
“But anyway, we have heard of your manifestation and it has been noted… Since the order of arrest has been satisfied, your manifestation (not to answer questions) is noted. You lose your chance to give your side, you are free to go,” Pimentel said extending his hand as a gesture of letting Mayor Binay go.
Earlier yesterday morning, Senate Sergeant-at-arms Jose Balajadia served the arrest order, which was acknowledged by Binay’s lawyers.
Binay turned himself to Balajadia and coolly left the city hall past 9 a.m. without his supporters gathered at the city hall grounds seeing him.
The mayor arrived at the Senate, accompanied by members of the Senate Office of Sergeant-at-Arms hours before the sub-panel resumed its probe.
Also ordered arrested and detained were Makati City administrator Eleno Mendoza and former city administrator Marjorie De Veyra who were among the Makati city officials cited for contempt.
But Mayor Binay refused to attend the hearing, saying he would settle at the detention area at the basement of the Senate office.
When the Senate resumed the hearing at 1 p.m., Pimentel, upon the motion of Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, ordered the Senate Sergeant-at-arms to bring Binay and the two Makati officials to the session hall.
Claro Certeza, one of Binay’s legal counsels, told the senators that Binay will not participate in the hearings anymore but the Trillanes’ motion prevailed.
It was at this point that members of the Senate Sergeant-at-arms bodily dragged the mayor to the session hall. Mayor Binay was accompanied by several of his supporters, former senators Rene Saguisag and Joker Arroyo, and his sister Rep. Abigail Binay, when he was brought before the subcommittee.
During the brief scuffle, Binay sustained a bruise in his left arm. When he sat down in front of the senators, Trillanes asked the mayor if he was hurt. Binay’s supporters cried “Yes!” in unison.
Binay reiterated he had no intention of ignoring the subpoena issued by the committee nor evade the allegations hurled against them.
“We answered the show cause order of the committee that’s why we see no reason for us to be cited for contempt. We are not fighting the Senate as an institution but I believe we have civil rights that should be considered. That’s why my position is to face the Senate during the first hearing and all the documents that the chamber asked, if it’s in our possession, we submitted it,” Binay told senators during the hearing.
“That’s why I don’t see there is any need for me to appear in this proceedings (again),” he said.
Pimentel argued that even past government officials such as former President Fidel V. Ramos and former Vice President Noli De Castro appeared at Senate hearings to shed light on matters needed by the chamber.
During the press conference after Mayor Binay was freed, Saguisag and Arroyo, both human rights lawyers, criticized the “abuses” of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee insofar as the conduct of the lengthy probe on Vice President Binay’s alleged acts of corruption is concerned.
“There is a tendency of government institutions to trample the rights of its citizens,” noted Arroyo, himself an ex-chair of the powerful Committee.
Arroyo frowned in particular at how the panel “tends to threaten resource persons with contempt at the drop of a hat,” whereas “they should be given every chance to defend himself or herself,” he said.
Saguisag echoed a much-repeated line from the Binay camp that the ongoing hearings are not being done in aid of legislation; rather they are an “investigation in aid of prosecution…hindi ‘yun ang diwa ng ating batas (that is not the spirit of our law).”
“It seems to us that Martial Law is reigns at the Senate,” Saguisag said. “There is a better way of handling these proceedings.”
Arroyo said that Mayor Binay’s uneventful release by the subpanel was an “encouraging” sign, although he slammed it for its bias and in prejudging the Binays.
NOT BINAY LAWYERS
Arroyo, however, clarified that he and Saguisag were not legal counsels of Mayor Binay.
“We are observers. We are here to see whether the committee acted without jurisdiction, if they violated constitutional rights,” he bared in the same press conference.
As MABINI lawyers, Arroyo said that they might intervene or take legal action once the senators “cross the line and are no longer fair.”
“Whether the mayor is guilty or not, we don’t know. Our role is to prevent violations of constitutional rights.”
Before he was arrested, Binay attended a Mass with his family, including mother, Elenita, sister Abigail, and his children. Saguisag, United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) interim president Toby Tiangco, and Cavite Governor Jonvic Remulla also joined Binay.
He, together with his four children – Jejomarie Alexi, 12; Maria Isabel, 9; Jejomar III, 7; and Maria Kennely, 5 – also paid his respect to his late wife, Kennely Ann, at the Sacred Heart Church before proceeding to the city hall.
Before leaving for the Senate, the mayor lamented the difficulty of leaving his children.
One of the hardest part, according to Binay, is leaving his children. But he said he had explained to his children about his detention.
“Although I don’t expect them to understand everything. Some of them are innocent of the issues,” said Binay.
Right after his arrest, his little boy went looking for him and asked, “Where is daddy? Where is daddy?”
Her sister Abigail was in tears when members of the press asked her about the arrest of his brother.
“It’s so painful because I’m his sister, I can’t help it. I feel the injustice but we will fight for what we believe in,” said Binay.
In the same press conference, Binay showed the bruise in his left arm which he sustained when he was bodily dragged to the Senate hearing.
According to Binay, he was already prepared to be detained at the Senate, saying he even gathered his family and children before he left.
“Ang gusto na lang naming ma-detain na lang ako. Dala ko na yung bag ko. Nakahanda na lang ako, tumawag ang aking ama, sabi ko dad, palagay na loob ko, laban ito ng prinsipyo. Handa na ako mag pa detain dito sa Senado,” Binay said.
“This is not about me, this is about the city of Makati. Sila po ang nakataya dito, hindi si Junjun Binay, dahil po tuwing may mga issue na pinupukol sa akin, ito po ay pukol sa lungsod ng Makati hindi po sa akin,” he said.
BINAY TO FILE CASE
Asked if he will still file a case before the courts, Binay said yes. “I was detained. And therefore, I have all the legal right to raise my issues now to a competent court, like the Supreme Court. Darating po tayo dyan.”
“But for the time being, we need to face these issues,” he said.
He said there are certain questions that need to be raised like how the proceedings are going in the Senate subcommittee, and the process leading to his detention.
“It doesn’t mean that I was told I was freed by the subcommittee, hindi na ako pwede i-cite in contempt or i-detain ulit. Lahat yan kelangan natin ipasagot,” he added.
Meanwhile, the mayor’s mother, former Makati mayor Elenita Binay, believes that her son is strong enough to endure the storm that he is facing.
The former mayor said she is standing by the decision of her son not to attend the hearings of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee subcommittee.
“The way they (Senate) treats the resource persons is wrong. A little respect will do, they have conducting the hearings for several times already. If they have enough evidence (against my family), file the case at the Ombudsman and Sandiganbayan,” said Mrs. Binay.