COA probe on Makati housing project part of ‘demolition plan’ vs Binay—spokesmanBy Fat Reyes
MANILA, Philippines – Vice President Jejomar Binay’s camp on Tuesday described the timing of the Commission on Audit’s (COA) investigation into the Makati Friendship Suites as “disturbing,” saying that Commissioner Heidi Mendoza’s actions were part of an alleged “demolition plan” against Binay.
“The timing of the Makati Friendship Suites audit is disturbing. And we feel strongly that the real target of the audit is the Vice President himself,” Joey Salgado, a spokesman for the Office of the Vice President, said in a statement.
The statement came after it was reported Monday that COA was looking into the use of the Makati Friendship Suites—buildings originally bought by the Makati city government as part of a housing program for informal settlers in Makati which have supposedly been converted into a hostel for visiting officials.
It was reported that COA based its actions from a complaint it received from a group calling itself “Concerned employees of Makati.” The group claimed that the Makati City government, under then Mayor Jejomar Binay, passed an ordinance in 2002 on the purchase of three unfinished buildings at the Guadalupe Bliss Housing project in Barangay Cembo for P17.233 million—money that was to be taken from the then mayor’s special project fund.
It was reported that the group claimed that the housing project was later converted to a hostel which became known as the Makati Friendship Suites. It also claimed that the hostel was used by officials of Makati’s numerous sister cities whenever they came for a visit.
Salgado, in his statement, also revealed that their camp received information that a task force “quietly created upon the instance of Commissioner Heidi Mendoza” was now reviewing city programs and projects during the 23 years that Binay served as Makati Mayor.
Salgado argued that the programs and projects passed reviews and audits conducted in the past by resident auditors and audit teams, but that Mendoza was insistent that they be subjected to another audit.
“We also received information that a first round of review showed that the programs and projects were all above board and complied with all legal requirements, which is consistent with the earlier findings. A second review has reportedly been ordered,” he said.
Salgado added that Mendoza had been “very vocal” about her dislike for Binay, reportedly making her sentiments known to members of Congress and other government officials.
He also warned Mendoza that “personal opinions should not color our work or professional judgment.”
“While we respect her opinion, we would like to remind Commissioner Mendoza that our personal opinions should not color our work or professional judgment, especially in such a politically-sensitive office,” Salagado said.
“Apparently, the demolition has begun and the actions of Ms. Mendoza seem to be part of the plan. It saddens the Vice President that until now, there are some elements who will misuse government resources to persecute perceived political enemies,” he added.