MAKATI City Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay Jr. vacated his post Wednesday to serve the six-month preventive suspension order against him in connection with the alleged irregularities in the construction of Makati Science High School.
Binay said he vacated his post to avoid further disruption and other untoward incidents similar to Tuesday’s violence in front of city hall where several supporters of his family and members of the anti-riot police squad were injured.
“I cannot allow more people to get hurt. I will leave city hall temporarily with a heavy heart. We have filed a petition with the Court of Appeals for us to get a temporary restraining order, and this is not the end,” said Binay in a speech before hundreds of supporters.
On Tuesday, violence erupted when Binay supporters tried to prevent policemen and personnel of the Department of Interior and Local Government from posting the suspension order in front of city hall.
“As I always said, because my father is a human rights lawyer, don’t emulate our enemies in politics who are breaking the law. We will show them that we respect and have faith in the rule of law,” Binay said.
Binay hugged his father Vice President Jejomar Binay after his speech.
Vice Mayor Romulo Peña took over as acting mayor but work in local courts and government offices in city hall remain suspended. He called a press conference at 2:30 p.m.
“We are not eager to take over the main building of city hall and right now we have to talk first with department heads and members of the city council,” he said.
Pena said his office also sent a letter to Councilor Virgilio Hilario Sr., who he said, would be designated as acting vice mayor. He added he has at least five directives aimed at bringing city hall back to normal, especially in the delivery of basic services to the constituents.
Pena directed Makati City police chief Ernesto Barlam to maintain peace and order by clearing the city hall quadrangle to give access to the public, particularly those who have transactions with the city government.
Mayor Binay failed to win a temporary restraining order Wednesday when the Court of Appeals opted to hold off deliberations on his plea, and instead required the Office of the Ombudsman and the DILG to explain why it should not enjoin the suspension order issued against the Makati City mayor.
The resolution was written by Associate Justice Melchor Sadang, with Associate Justices Celia Librea-Leagogo and Amy Lazaro-Javier concurring.
The appeals court also ordered Binay to give his reply, after receiving a copy of the comment, in five days.
In his petition, Binay argued that he cannot be held accountable for the alleged anomaly since three of the seven construction phases of the MSHSB were done when he was not yet the city mayor.
He also said any liability in the subsequent phases was expunged by his re-election in 2013 under the condonation doctrine.
Binay also said the Ombudsman relied only on hearsay testimony as a basis for issuing the suspension order.
The Palace on Wednesday said there was “no place for mob rule in modern civil society.”
“We welcome the decision of Mayor Junjun Binay to heed the call of Secretary Mar Roxas for the rule of law to prevail. Indeed, today is a good day for the rule of law and there is certainly no place for mob rule in modern civil society,” said presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda, in a text message to the Malacanang Press Corps.
Members and officers of the Makati Business Club, a supporter of President Benigno Aquino III, expressed concern at the developments at city hall.
“While we recognize that the mayor has decided to leave city hall as ordered by the Office of the Ombudsman, we note that it took a significant period, two orders from the Ombudsman, and instances of near-violence between the mayor’s supporters and law enforcement officers before the mayor made his decision, when such an order was immediately executory,” the MBC said in a statement.
“MBC believes that no one should be above the law—and the demand to respect the rule of law is more heavily levied on elected public servants. Indeed, affected officials are free to avail themselves of all remedies provided under our system. However, they must ultimately and immediately submit themselves to the demands of the law at the first instance an order is given,” it added.
“Now that the case is in the judiciary, it is our hope that the courts will render a fair decision swiftly and in accordance to its merits.” – With Rey E. Requejo and Sandy Araneta