CA affirms public office ban vs Junjun Binay for building scam

    69

    THE Court of Appeals (CA) has affirmed its decision perpetually barring former Makati mayor Jejomar Erwin “Junjun” Binay Jr. from holding public office for his role in the controversial construction of the P1.3 billion Makati Science High School (MSHS) building.

    In a 12-page ruling dated December 20 but released only yesterday to the media, the CA’s former Eight Division upheld its June 2019 decision affirming the 2017 decision of the Office of the Ombudsman banning Binay from public office and dismissing him for serious dishonesty, grave misconduct and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.

    The appellate court rejected Binay’s reliance on the Arias doctrine that heads of offices may, in good faith, rely to a certain extent on the acts of their subordinates who prepare bids, purchase supplies, or enter into negotiations since heads of offices cannot be expected to examine every single document relative to government transactions.

    “The application of the doctrine is subject to the qualification that the public official has no foreknowledge of any facts or circumstances that would prompt him or her to investigate or exercise a greater degree of care. In a number of cases, the Supreme Court refused to apply the Arias doctrine considering that there were circumstances that should have prompted the government official to inquire further,” stated the CA ruling penned by Associate Justice Ronaldo Roberto Martin and concurred in by Associate Justices Ramon Bato, Jr. and Ramon Cruz.

    “Indubitably, the case of Arias is not on all fours with Binay Jr.’s case,” it added.

    Binay had consistently insisted that he did not rig the bidding process since there was nothing in the bid process that would have made him withhold his signature on the resolution awarding the P166. 85 million contract to Hilmarc Construction, as well as on the notice to commence work, certificate of completion and acceptance and the disbursement vouchers.

    He asserted that since he acted in good faith in approving the award of the contract to Hilmarc, such good faith negated the element of deceit in dishonesty and the willful violation of law and of corruption in grave misconduct.

    He cited the ruling in Arias v. Sandiganbayan in arguing that as head of the Makati City government, he had every right to rely on the good faith of his subordinates in the regular performance of their duties.

    The CA said that the Arias case cited by Binay was a criminal case for violation of section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, whereas the instant case was an administrative case for grave misconduct, dishonesty and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of service.

    “As conviction in criminal cases could involve deprivation of life or liberty of the accused, proof beyond reasonable doubt must be established by the prosecution, unlike in administrative cases which only require substantial evidence or that amount of relevant evidence which a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to justify a conclusion,” the CA said.

    It also pointed out that the acquittal of the accused in the Arias case was principally based on lack of evidence to link him to his co-accused in the planning, preparation and/or perpetration of the alleged corrupt acts.

    “In Arias, the participation of the petitioner therein was limited to his signing on the document, while Binay Jr.’s participation was not limited to affixing his signature on the documents involved,” it noted, stressing: “To reiterate, Binay Jr. approved the BAC Resolution even though the IAEB that was published in Daily Tribune and at the PhilGEPS website and those posted in conspicuous places at the Makati City Hall contained incomplete information as only the title of the project, project cost, date of availability of bid documents, place of submission of letter of intent and schedule of activities were included. As a result, prospective bidders were prevented from participating and submitting their bid documents on time, thus, favoring Hilmarc and awarding to it all the contracts for the construction of the MSHS Building including the Phase VI thereof.”

    The appellate court also ruled that as head of the procuring entity, Binay should have exercised reasonable diligence in making sure that the prescribed bidding procedures under the law were properly complied.

    “Had Binay Jr. exercised the due diligence expected of him, he would have easily noticed that the requirements under RA 9184 were not complied with,” the court chided the former city executive.

    In the same ruling, the CA dismissed the motions for reconsiderations filed by the 12 other former employees of Makati City Hall who were likewise found guilty of serious dishonesty, grave misconduct and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.

    The CA also found former Makati City Administrator Eleno Mendoza administratively liable for simple misconduct and was meted the penalty of suspension of six months without pay.