Miriam: No contempt by Ombudsman

Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin “Junjun” Binay shows the sofa in his office at the 21st floor of the Makati City Hall on Thursday where he said he spent the previous night. Binay reiterated he will not step down until the court decides on his petition against the suspension order of the Ombudsman. (MNS photo)

Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin “Junjun” Binay shows the sofa in his office at the 21st floor of the Makati City Hall on Thursday where he said he spent the previous night. Binay reiterated he will not step down until the court decides on his petition against the suspension order of the Ombudsman. (MNS photo)

MANILA (Mabuhay) – Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, a former multi-awarded RTC judge, said that in the contempt case filed against them by the camp of Makati Mayor Junjun Binay, the Ombudsman and her co-respondents are not liable under the ruling of the Supreme Court in the 2008 case of Gobenciong v. Court of Appeals.

In that case, the Supreme Court ruled: “The Office of the Ombudsman can, as a matter of statutory empowerment, validly order the immediate execution of a preventive suspension after determining the propriety of the imposition, regardless of the remedy of reconsideration made available under the law to the suspended respondent.”

Santiago explained: “Thus, the Ombudsman can order the immediate suspension of a sitting mayor, who is not allowed to plead that he needs time to file a motion for reconsideration.”

Santiago said that in the Gobenciong case, the Supreme Court rejected the argument that the sitting official was denied due process of law, just because the suspension was immediately implemented.

The senator also said: “In the Gobenciong case, the Supreme Court said there was no legal basis for the argument that immediate implementation of the preventive suspension would deny due process.  In fact, the Supreme Court added that since preventive suspension is not a penalty for an administrative offense, preventive suspension can be imposed without prior hearing.”

In the Gobenciong case, the Supreme Court denied the motion to cite the Ombudsman in contempt on the ground that it had “become moot and academic  for the preventive suspension had been served.”

Under the Gobenciong ruling, Santiago said that the Ombudsman cannot be held in indirect contempt because under the Rules of Court there is no “disobedience of or resistance to a lawful writ of a court.”

“A contempt order usually arises according to the Rules of Court for ‘any improper conduct tending, directly or indirectly, to impede, obstruct, or degrade the administration of justice.’  It is not the case,” the senator said.

However, Santiago also pointed to a 2011 case, Strategic Alliance Development Corp. v. Star Infrastructure Development Corp. where the Supreme Court held: “Although the general rule is to the effect that a writ of preliminary injunction cannot be issued against acts already fait accompli it has been held, however, that consummated acts which are continuing in nature may still be enjoined by the courts.”

Santiago said that the apparent collision between the 2008 Gobenciong case and the 2011 Strategic Alliance case should be resolved by the Court of Appeals.

She added that one of the petitioners might elevate the case on a petition for review on certiorari concerning a question of law to the Supreme Court, which has discretion on whether to pass upon the petition.

The senator was guest speaker at the leadership forum conducted by Maynilad last Wednesday, 25 March 2015. (MNS)

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