Former Makati Mayor Elenita Binay was cleared Thursday of graft and malversation cases filed against her and several city officials by the Sandiganbayan in connection with the P45-million purchase of beds and sterilizers for the Ospital ng Makati in 2000 and 2001.
The case was one of those filed against members of the Binay family following months-long hearings at the Senate led by Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III, a former Binay ally, and then-Senator Antonio Trillanes IV.
The hearings on alleged anomalies at the Makati City Hall were held following the announcement by then-Vice President Jejomar Binay that he would seek the presidency in the 2016 elections.
VP Binay’s chances of winning the presidency were undermined by the hearings, and now President Rodrigo Duterte won the highest position in the land.
“We are relieved that after more than 10 years, this case is finally over,” lawyer Sandy Coronel, representing Elenita Binay, said of the decision of the Sandiganbayan’s Special Third Division.
“The Ospital ng Makati has meantime, through those many years, established itself as vital to the City’s service to its citizens, and Dra. Binay is proud to have founded it. Let this be a vindication for all local government executives who dare to dream big for their LGUs despite the risk that political opponents will get in the way,” Coronel added.
The anti-graft court, in a 149-page decision, said the prosecution failed to prove Dr. Binay’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt in connection with the alleged anomalous transactions with Apollo Medical Equipment and Supplies.
The cases stemmed from Makati City’s March 2001 purchase of P36.43 million worth of hospital beds and cabinets and December 2000 procurement of P8.83 million worth of sterilizers from Apollo. Dr. Binay, as mayor, also chaired the Committee on Awards at the time.
The complaint claimed that the purchases were made without competitive public bidding “and under the pretext that Apollo was the exclusive distributor of the said products.”
The Sandiganbayan said there was no clear evidence to show “that the accused-members of the Committee on Awards disregarded the rules on procurement by relying on the recommendations of the Committee on Canvass.”
“The reliance of the Committee on Awards on the recommendations of the Committee on Canvass falls short of the degree of criminal liability demanded by Republic Act 3019,” the court said.
Republic Act 3019 is the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
The former Makati Committee on Canvass members accused in the same case were Conrado Pamintuan, Jaime de los Reyes, and Nestor Bulos.
The Sandiganbayan added: “This simply proves that members of the Committee on Canvass acted with gross inexcusable negligence by being totally remiss in their respective duties and functions under the Local Government Code of 1991.”
Pamintuan and delos Reyes were found guilty of graft but acquitted of malversation over both the 2000 and 2001 purchases.
Sandiganbayan Associate Justice Bernelito Fernandez wrote the ponencia of the decision. Associate Justices Ronald Moreno, Oscar Herrera Jr. and Alex Quiroz concurred.
Associate Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang, who was appointed to the anti-graft court by then-President Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III in 2013, dissented.
She argued that there were “more than adequate bases” to find members of the Committee on Awards “equally grossly and inexcusably negligent” in their performance of their duties.
The Binay patriarch beat Aquino Manuel Roxas III for the vice presidency in the 2010 elections. Both later lost to Duterte in the presidential derby in 2016.