SolGen upholds Puno on suspension

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — THE government’s top lawyer yesterday supported the Department of the Interior and Local Government’s decision to defer the suspension of Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay over corruption charges.

In a radio interview, Solicitor General Agnes Devanadera said the Ombudsman’s suspension order, served Friday, was not in effect because the department had not carried it out.

“The status quo remains, meaning Binay is still there,” Devanadera said.

She added that she would file a request with the Office of the Ombudsman requesting a postponement of the suspension order.

Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno had earlier decided to defer the suspension against Binay, who is running for re-election under the opposition banner, to avoid charges that the government was motivated by political considerations.

Devanadera said that under the Ombudsman Law, the government may choose not to carry out a suspension order for a just cause.

She said Puno had taken into account that nobody on the city council wanted to be officer-in-charge if Binay were suspended.

Devanadera stressed that deferring the suspension did not mean the government was dropping the graft case against Binay over the alleged hiring of “ghost employees” at city hall.

Noting that the Ombudsman had begun hearings, she said the case could move forward even without Binay’s preventive suspension.

The hearing was cut short yesterday when Binay questioned the validity of the proceedings.

Deputy Ombudsman Orlando Casimiro insisted that Binay should be considered suspended and would not be allowed to perform his official functions while the Ombudsman’s orders were in effect.

“We stand by the preventive suspension,” Casimiro said, adding that Puno might face administrative sanctions for refusing to carry out the Ombudsman’s order.

If Binay was re-elected, the administrative aspect of the case—his removal from office—would be erased, but not the criminal aspect, Devanadera said.

Presidential adviser on political affairs Gabriel Claudio said Binay was barking up the wrong tree when he blamed Malacañang for his troubles.

“Malacañang has nothing to do with the suspension order. He should take [up] his grievances with the Ombudsman and not with us,” Claudio said.

The former city councilor who filed the plunder complaint against Binay said there was nothing irregular about Binay’s suspension.

“I’m surprised this was taken as political harassment,” Oscar Ibay said as he dismissed allegations that he had discussed the matter with the Palace or the chairman of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp., Efraim Genuino, who has two sons running for election in Makati.

“I have not seen Mr. Genuino or visited Malacañang,” he said.