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MANILA - The Court of Appeals (CA) has junked the petition of sacked Makati City Mayor Jejomar Erwin "Junjun" Binay and 15 others in connection with their preventive suspension over the allegedly anomalous Makati City Hall Building 2.
In a 48-page decision by its Former Sixth Division, penned by Associate Justice Jose Reyes, Jr., the appellate court ruled that the petitions filed by Binay and 15 of the 21 other former and incumbent city officials in the case before the anti-graft court have been rendered moot and academic by their dismissal and the lapse of the challenged suspension order itself.
The Office of the Ombudsman placed Binay, et al. on a 6-month preventive suspension on March 10, 2015 while an investigation was still ongoing on the alleged overpriced project. The dismissal order was handed down by the anti-graft office on October 9, 2015.
"By reason of the October 9, 2015 decision of the Ombudsman which found Binay, Jr., administratively liable and which imposed on him the penalty of dismissal, we find Binay Jr.'s herein petition, questioning the March 10, 2015 Preventive Suspension Order of the Ombudsman, to be already moot and academic. Its dismissal based on mootness is therefore in order," the decision read.
The same ruling was handed down in the case of the other petitioners.
CONTEMPT PLEA ALSO JUNKED
The decision also junked the contempt plea filed by Binay against Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, former Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Mar Roxas, former Justice Secretary Leila De Lima, former Makati Vice-Mayor and now Mayor Romulo Peña, and several police officials for lack of merit.
Binay urged the appellate court to cite respondents in indirect contempt for allegedly defying the temporary restraining order (TRO) issued by the CA to stay the preventive suspension order. The appellate court, however, ruled that respondents "are not liable for indirect contempt."
In the case of Roxas and the police officials, the CA ruled that its implementation of the preventive suspension order "was in the performance of its ministerial duty."
In the case of the Ombudsman, who was only impleaded after filing her manifestation before the CA on March 17, 2015, the appellate court ruled that Morales' manifestation "merely reflects her legal opinion, contains neither offensive nor derogatory language, and thus, not contumacious."
Peña's assailed act -- that of telling news reporters that he will continue to act as the Acting Mayor of Makati, until instructed otherwise -- is not contumacious, as well, the CA said.
While as far as De Lima's Legal Opinion on the effectivity of the TRO is concerned, the appellate court ruled that it was issued in accordance with her mandate under Executive Order (EO) No. 292, also known as the Revised Administrative Code of 1987, which designates the Secretary of Justice as Attorney-General and ex-officio legal adviser of government-owned or controlled corporations and their subsidiaries.
"[T]his court holds that respondents did not commit any act amounting to indirect contempt. Time and again, the Supreme Court has consistently ruled that the power to punish for contempt is inherent in all courts and is essential to the preservation of order in judicial proceedings and to the enforcement of judgments, orders, and mandates of the court, and, consequently, to the due administration of justice," the decision read.
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