THREE more magistrates of the Supreme Court inhibited themselves from hearing the Ombudsman’s petition assailing the Court of Appeals decision to stop the preventive suspension order issued against Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin “Junjun” Binay Jr.
SC spokesman Theodore Te said Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr., Arturo Brion and Francis Jardeleza also recused themselves from the case after Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta inhibited himself before the first oral argument.
The three justices made the decision before the SC resumed its oral arguments on the case yesterday afternoon in Baguio City, despite their participation in the earlier open court hearing last Tuesday, April 14.
Te did not state the reasons why the three SC justices recused themselves, but he explained that inhibition was discretionary and voluntary on the part of the magistrates.
An SC insider disclosed that Velasco opted to inhibit from the case apparently for consistency, as he had earlier recused himself in the graft case involving former Makati City Mayor Elenita Binay, mother of Junjun Binay, when the case reached the high court.
For his part, Jardeleza inhibited himself apparently because he served as Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon under the watch of Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, who is now the petitioner in the case assailing the CA ruling.
The SC insider also said Peralta decided to inhibit from the case because his sister, Visha Peralta-Aldon, is a department head at the Makati City Hall.
Even with the inhibitions, the high court heard the oral arguments of Binay, who was represented by lawyers Claro Certeza and Sandra Coronel who argued that the Ombudsman committed grave abuse of discretion in ordering the mayor’s suspension, making the CA orders valid.
Certeza argued that there was no sufficient evidence in the charges against Binay for the Ombudsman to order the preventive suspension.
Coronel, for her part, explained that the Ombudsman should have applied the doctrine of condonation on charges against Binay pertaining to acts allegedly committed during his previous term.
In his interpellation of Binay’s lawyers, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said that it was the SC that adopted such doctrine in previous rulings, but he agreed that it is high time to revisit its doctrine.
Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno reiterated her position that the condonation policy sends the wrong message to the 430, 000 public officials nationwide, allowing them to commit administrative offenses ranging from simple misconduct to serious misconduct and dishonesty since the offenses could be rid of once they are reelected in office.