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Senators to inspect ‘overpriced,’ ‘green’ Makati parking building

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Senators to inspect ‘overpriced,’ ‘green’ Makati parking building

By: - Deputy Day Desk Chief / @TJBurgonioINQ
/ 10:18 AM August 23, 2014
Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III

Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III. INQUIRER.net FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—Senators will inspect Makati City’s allegedly overpriced parking building to verify claims it’s a “world-class” green building, Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III said on Friday.

“It’s difficult to rely on description especially if we’re trying to figure out what is world-class and what is green,” Pimentel, chair of the investigating blue ribbon sub-committee, said.

But Senate Minority Leader Vicente Sotto III cautioned his colleagues against letting the inquiry turn into a vilification campaign against Vice President Jejomar Binay.

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Pimentel said the ocular inspection would be part of a hearing and would need another senator to constitute a quorum. But he indicated the inspection would be conducted after next Tuesday’s hearing.

“We want to see the tiles and the elevators, which they say is good for 20 people, as well as the atrium on the seventh floor. I can’t imagine that in my mind,” he said. “They say the roof deck is landscaped. Let’s see what kind of landscaping is this.”

Makati Mayor Jejomar “Jun-jun” Binay Jr. has defended the P2.3-billion cost of the 11-story parking building, asserting that this was world-class and the city’s version of a “green building.”

In last Wednesday’s hearing, the mayor presented a Commission on Audit (COA) evaluation report clearing it of any overprice, but top COA officials insisted this wasn’t final.

COA Chair Grace Pulido-Tan told the committee that she had noticed “red flags,” including the fact that the project had been divided into five phases, and that the contract had been swiftly awarded.

A plunder case filed by Renato Bondal and Nicolas Enciso against their political rivals Mayor Binay and the Vice President over the allegedly overpriced building has prompted senators to call for a hearing.

Sotto said his worst fear was that this would end up like the politically charged hearing on then presidential candidate Sen. Manuel Villar Jr.’s role in the C-5 extension scandal in the run-up to the 2010 presidential vote.

“We should be very careful. We could be destroying other people’s names as had happened in the case of Manny Villar,” he said by phone. “We should be cautious in the way we conduct our investigation, lest we end up destroying our own institution.”

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The Vice President said the hearing smacked of politicking given that Senators Alan Peter Cayetano and Antonio Trillanes IV who called for the hearing and came down hard on his son were presidential aspirants.

The elder Binay has made no secret of his plan to run for president in 2016.

Before the 2010 elections, the Senate committee of the whole inquired into allegations that Villar’s real estate firm benefited from right of way deals in connection with the C-5 road extension in the cities of Parañaque and Las Piñas.

After the first hearing, Pimentel said he was not ready to declare that the allegations on the building were baseless.

“What do we mean by a campaign against the VP? They’re the subject matter of the resolution. When is it going to be the start of the campaign against the VP?” Pimentel said. “That’s very subjective.”

If he thought the allegations were baseless, Pimentel said he would terminate the hearing.

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TAGS: COA, Commission On Audit, corruption, Graft, Jejomar Binay, Junjun Binay, Makati City hall, Makati parking building, Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III, Vicente Sotto III
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