Draft Philippine Senate report backs plunder raps vs Binays

Draft Philippine Senate report backs plunder raps vs Binays
The allegedly overpriced Makati City Hall Building II. Inset Vice President Binay (left) and his son Makati Mayor Junjun Binay (right).

"There was a grand conspiracy to milk the construction of the Makati City Hall [Building II] for every peso that it could yield through massive, unconscionable overpricing," the Senate blue ribbon subcommittee investigating allegations of corruption against Vice President Jejomar Binay said in its partial report.

The subcommittee headed by Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III has recommended the filing of plunder charges against Binay and his son, Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin "Junjun" Binay, for irregularities in the construction of the building, which is allegedly overpriced at P2.3 billion.

Also recommended charged were the members of Makati City's bids and awards committee (BAC), Hilmarc's Construction Corp. president Robert Henson, board chair Efren Canlas, Mana Architecture and Interior Design Co. owner Orlando M. Mateo and the Vice President's longtime aides Gerardo "Gerry" Limlingan and Eduviges "Ebeng" Baloloy.

The Inquirer obtained a copy of the subcommittee's draft report.

Aside from plunder, the subcommittee also recommended the filing of graft charges and charges of violating the government procurement law against Binay and the Makati City officials.

A Senate source said he had seen the 46-page draft report prepared by Pimentel, which would be submitted for approval to Sen. Teofisto Guingona III, head of the blue ribbon committee.

The report has to be signed by Guingona before it can be released. Pimentel said the report needed the majority vote of the 17-member blue ribbon committee for it to be adopted as its official report. So far, four senators have signed the report.

The subcommittee has conducted 21 hearings into corruption allegations surrounding the construction of Makati City Hall Building II, allegedly the "most expensive parking building" in the country.

The other members of Pimentel's subcommittee are Senators Antonio Trillanes IV and Alan Peter Cayetano.

Pimentel, Trillanes, Cayetano and his sister Sen. Pia Cayetano have signed the report, according to the Senate source.

Reached for comment, Pimentel declined to confirm or deny the subcommittee's recommendations against the Binays and the others.

Others to be charged

The others recommended charged were BAC chair Marjorie de Veyra, BAC members Lorenza Amores, Gerardo K. San Gabriel, Pio Kenneth Dasal and Ulysses E. Orienza.

The subcommittee also recommended further investigation against Commission on Audit (COA) auditors Cecilia Caga-anan, Flora M. Ruiz, Cecilio Pineda, Roldan L. Menciano, Ricardo R. Custodio, Allan S. Florentino, Zaldy B. Lavarro, Winiefredo L.Paquera and Rosalina H. Prestoza.

Also recommended for further investigation were businessman Antonio Tiu and Laureano R. Gregorio Jr.

"In the opinion of the subcommittee, all the elements of the crime of plunder have been clearly alleged and substantiated through the unequivocal and straightforward assertions of the witnesses who appeared before the subcommittee during the hearings as well as from the documents already in the possession of the subcommittee," the report said.

Binay failed to respond

The report also said Binay was afforded all the opportunity by the subcommittee to give his side or present countervailing evidence in his favour, which he did not take advantage of.

"In fact he was formally invited to the hearing of Nov. 6, 2014, and he did not appear. Binay has summarily dismissed all of the subcommittee proceedings as 'politics,'" the report said.

Copies of the report, it said, will be given to the Office of the President, COA, Office of the Ombudsman, Department of Justice, Department of Agrarian Reform, Department of Public Works and Highways, and the Government Procurement Policy Board.

The report also stated that while former Makati Vice Mayor Ernesto Mercado and City Engineer Mario U. Hechanova admitted to have participated in the conspiracy to commit plunder, no charges have been recommended against them, as they have been placed in the Witness Protection Program as recommended by the subcommittee itself.

The Makati City Hall Building II was built in 2007 when Binay was Makati mayor. It was completed in 2013 during the term of his son.

The subcommittee recommended charges against Binay for his involvement in phases 1 to 3 of the building's construction and his role in the kickback system.

It recommended charges against Mayor Binay for his role in phases 4 and 5 of the construction.

'Elements of plunder'

The Senate source said there were "elements of plunder" in the case, as it involved an amount of more than P50 million and a "series of acts" that involved government contracts.

In an interview Thursday night, Cayetano said the facts and evidence pointed to "collusion, whether antigraft or plunder," in the overpricing of the building's construction.

"There was conspiracy there," Cayetano said.

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