VICE President Jejomar Binay filed a P200 million civil suit against his political nemeses Senators Antonio Trillanes and Alan Peter Cayetano, Ombudsman Conchita Caprio-Morales and 11 others before a Makati court Monday, accusing them of maligning his character in an attempt to destroy his presidential bid in 2016.
Others named in the suit were Caloocan City Rep. Edgar Erice; members of the Anti-Money Laundering Council— Amando Tetangco Jr., Emmanuel Dooc, Teresita Herbosa, and Julia Bacay-Abad; former Makati City vice mayor Ernesto Mercado; engineer Mario Hechanova; losing Makati City mayoral candidate Renato Bondal; and former village official Nicolas Enciso.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer was also included in the complaint.
In his complaint, Binay accused the respondents of conniving and colluding with one another to malign and destroy his name and reputation.
In an interview, Binay’s lawyer, Claro Certeza, said the complaint covers all the allegations Binay’s critics made against him since the corruption scandal and Senate inquiry began in 2014.
“Before the courts, both the Vice President and his detractors will be given equal chances to prove all their claims where strict rules on evidence are applied in search for the truth. In court, mere allegations without proof, which is the strategy of detractors, will not be accepted,” he added.
“With the filing of this damage suit, our countrymen will be given the chance to truly determine who is telling the truth. Under the orderly procedure prescribed by the Rules of Court, the Vice President will present evidence to show how his detractors have connived to repeatedly lie to the public about their baseless charges of corruption,” Certeza said.
The lawyer said Binay is seeking P200 million in damages, the same amount that the respondents alleged the Vice President had stolen from government coffers.
He added that they are still studying the possible filing of a criminal case for libel.
The complaint said because Binay is running for president in 2016, he has been the target of defamatory statements from the respondents.
It said the political ambitions of the respondents and their disdain and personal animosity toward the Vice President led them to publicly malign his reputation through baseless and fabricated accusations.
The suit identified Cayetano, Trillanes and Erice as the designated “talking heads” who publicly persecute Binay, and described the three as attack dogs of the group.
“Defendants Mercado, Hechanova, Bondal and Enciso are the paid witnesses who maliciously accused Binay of public crimes and defects that are mere fabrications,” the complaint said.
Binay faces multiple plunder complaints and corruption charges over allegedly overpriced infrastructure projects when he was still Makati mayor for 21 years. The Senate, the Ombudsman, and the AMLC are conducting separate investigations.
The Ombudsman suspended his son, Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay Jr, over the allegedly overpriced Makati Science High School.
The AMLC in turn asked for a freeze order on Binays’ bank accounts.
Binay’s suit included the Trillanes’ claim that Binay paid off Court of Appeals jusitces to secure a temporary restraining order on his son’s suspension in April.
“It’s the totality of what he said in media that in reality is baseless and not substantiated by evidence,” Certeza said of Trillanes.
Binay’s lawyer added that Cayetano also made public statements that the Vice President is corrupt. He said Cayetano merely “parroted the same lines” that Mercado made in the Senate.
“The function of a senator is to enact laws. That’s why he is allowed to investigate. Once he goes out in public, and makes the same accusations, baseless as they are, we believe he becomes liable for libel,” Certeza said.
Morales was included because she showed “extreme bias” against Binay.
“She continues to articulate in public that the evidence against the Vice President is strong. He is a sitting vice president, and only removable by impeachment. In her statements, you really see her obvious bias against the VP,” Certeza said.
Binay also included the AMLC officials, including Tetangco, the governor of the central bank.
“The law states that the AMLC report must be kept confidential, yet the officials supposedly gave advanced copies to Mercado, the senators, and the media,” the complaint said.
Trillanes said the suit showed Binay was “in panic mode.”
He added that Binay was threatening and harassing people who have exposed his anomalous transactions, and added that he would continue to investigate the Vice President because he wants to see him jailed for stealing public funds.
Also on Monday, the Sandiganbayan blocked Mercado from taking the witness stand against the wife of the Vice President, Elenita Binay, in connection with a graft suit she is facing before the Fifth Division.
The anti-graft court rejected the request of government prosecutors to present Mercado as a witness in the alleged irregular purchase of office partitions and furniture when Mrs. Binay was then the city mayor, saying they were unable to justify Mercado’s presence as a witness.
“Assuming that the court can be liberal in considering the good cause shown and allows the presentation of Mr. Mercado as a witness for the prosecution, the same does not serve the purpose at this instance if the reason for calling Mr. Mercado to the witness stand is to authenticate and verify the purported original copy of the audit report itself,” the court’s resolution read.
“How he was able to obtain the original copy of the audit report itself, which the Commission on Audit oddly does not even have in its official custody, would only nag the persistent question that it could have come from a dubious source,” the anti-graft court ruled.
It added that Mercado was not the right person to establish the authenticity of the report.
“Mr. Mercado will certainly not be able to fulfill these requirements since he was not a member of the audit team which took part in the audit investigation and in the eventual preparation and submission of the audit report,” it said.
Mrs. Binay was sued for graft for the purchase of P72.06 million worth of office partitions and furniture in 1999. – With Rio N. Araja
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