Heidi to graft court: Makati deal ‘rigged’By Cynthia D. Balana
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Commission on Audit (CoA) Commissioner Heidi Mendoza on Wednesday told the antigraft court that the P72-million contract to supply new furnishings for Makati City Hall in 2000 was “rigged” based on her findings.
Mendoza testified as a prosecution witness in the graft charges filed in the Sandiganbayan’s 5th Division by the Office of the Ombudsman against former Makati Mayor Elenita Binay, wife of Vice President Jejomar Binay, and other city government officials.
Binay and the others were charged in 2006 for allegedly bypassing bidding procedures in favor of Office Gallery International Inc., one of the three bidders for a P72-million contract for the purchase of office fixtures, partitions and furniture. The other bidders were MFE and Asia Concept.
On direct examination by Special Prosecutor Omar Sagadal, Mendoza, formerly the resident auditor assigned to Makati, said: “Basically, the findings were about (a) rigged bidding.”
Mendoza recalled, for example, that the bidding envelopes were opened as early as 2 p.m. on Aug. 15, 2000, when this should have been done at the end of office hours that day to allow more bidders to come in.
“Under the rules, you have to wait until the end of the day,” she said.
“Then you have to conduct a prequalification process (to check the validity of the documents submitted), but a purchase order for the supplies was issued the next day,” she added.
Mendoza also recalled that during the examination of the winning bidder’s warehouse, it turned out to be on the same address as that of another bidder, MFE.
In a press statement, Vice President Binay’s spokesman Joey Salgado belittled Mendoza’s testimony, saying the respondents were looking forward to her cross-examination.
“Commissioner Mendoza is using this case to project herself, considering that she has yet to be confirmed by the Commission on Appointments. This selfish motive is at Dr. (Elenita) Binay’s expense,” Salgado said.
Salgado also claimed that Mendoza had a history of animosity toward the Binays since the Sandiganbayan had dismissed a previous case of alleged overpricing against Elenita Binay, which was also filed based on Mendoza’s findings.
The antigraft court then ruled that Mendoza erred in her findings because she used a flawed methodology and that the charge had no factual basis, Salgado said.
“Commissioner Mendoza has shown obsessive interest in the Binays and in Makati, and in auditing the programs implemented during the Vice President’s term as mayor,” Salgado said.
Salgado said Mendoza had been very vocal against the Vice President even before her designation as commissioner “to such an extent that she is apparently using the resources of COA to pursue her own agenda.”
He was referring to a recent report that the CoA was looking into Makati Friendship Suites, a project which, according to Salgado, was already investigated and cleared by the commission during the Arroyo administration.
Mendoza will return to the witness stand on November 7.