What’s green building? Senate to quiz parking contractor | Inquirer News

What’s green building? Senate to quiz parking contractor

/ 09:24 PM August 21, 2014

Photo by Ryan Leagogo/INQUIRER.net

MANILA, Philippines — The Senate’s hearing on the alleged overprice of the Makati City parking building is far from over, and the next phase of the inquiry will delve into auditing processes and the features of the building, according to Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III.

Pimentel, who chairs the Blue Ribbon subcommittee conducting the inquiry, expressed hope there would be less politicking in next week’s hearing, especially since the complainants against Vice President Jejomar Binay and Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay of Makati over the alleged overpricing have already stated their case.


Proposals to invite the Vice President Jejomar Binay to the hearing might also be tackled next week, he said.


The plunder case filed by Renato Bondal and Nicolas Enciso against their political rivals Mayor Binay and his father, Vice President Binay, formed the basis of the Senate inquiry on the alleged overpricing of the P2.3 billion, 11-storey Makati City building.

The Senate probe was sought by Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV of the Nacionalista Party, a rival of the Binays’ United Nationalist Alliance. Pimentel has also had a falling out with the Vice President over politics.

The Binays have denied that the parking building that also housed offices was overpriced, with Mayor Binay noting that a Commission on Audit report found the costs reasonable. The mayor also explained the cost by saying it was a “world class” building and Makati’s version of a green building, and that its foundation had to be strengthened because of the soft ground on which it was built.

But the COA chair said the report Binay cited has not been validated, and that the COA would conduct a special audit of the project.

Pimentel said on Thursday that he was interested in pursuing questions on the auditing of local government unit (LGU) building projects, particularly when officials claim the structure to be a “green building,” and thus more expensive.

He also said the LGUs could say they built the green building using their own style to justify the costs.


He pointed out that the COA issued a 2012 circular telling auditors to guard against irregular, unnecessary and extravagant expenses.

“What if the LGUs use the green building argument, that we’re putting up such a building and it is necessarily more expensive than what we’ve been used to? How will the COA now interpret that? Is the greenbuilding extravagant or irregular?” he said in a phone interview.

There is also a Philippine Green Building Council, but there is no requirement to get a certification from it, according to Pimentel.

Pimentel also plans to pose questions to Hilmarcs Construction Corporation, which bagged the contracts for all of the phases of the Makati parking building. It had also won the contracts for other Makati buildings, he noted.

He said as well that he was leaning toward supporting Trillanes’ proposal for the Senate to the inspect the parking building to determine what made it “world class.”

“I’m inclined to do an ocular. The description of the building as ‘world class’ is very subjective,” he said.

For instance, he said he wanted to know if having two elevators for a building of that size was considered world class. He would also like to know the capacity of the elevator, he added.

Pimentel said that after the initial hearing on the Makati building, the “issues have been joined,” meaning that the accusers have had their say, and the accused given the chance to air their side and deny the allegations.

“Therefore, we’re going to find out who is telling the truth, whose side the truth falls on. We want objective truth from documents, from facts, from the flow, the timetable,” he said.

“There are many phases to this inquiry, and as the phases continue, I hope there will be less and less political talk… If they keep on repeating accusations already said, that’s taking advantage of the hearings for political purposes,” he added.

As for criticism that the Senate inquiry was not the proper venue to investigate the allegations, Pimentel cited legislative issues related to the case that could not be resolved by a court.

These included the review of auditing rules, the propriety of implementing infrastructure projects in phases, and how detailed the local budgeting should be, he said.

The Blue Ribbon Committee’s first hearing on the alleged overprice was marked by politics, with Senators complaining that Bondal was resorting to name-calling against the Binays and using “politically charged” words. Bondal had also tried to expand the scope of the hearing by claiming that cakes given out by Makati were overpriced, but the attempt was shut down.

Sen. Nancy Binay has admitted being “hurt” at how proceedings went, where the warning against the words used, including “thief,” came too late.

“The Senate was used to give them the opportunity to say hurtful words,” she had said.

Mayor Binay, in his opening statement, also said the case against him and his father was a product of politics, as he noted that Bondal was a candidate of the Nacionalista Party in 2013, and his running mate Kid Pena was from the Liberal Party.

Bondal said he was initially given an NP certificate, but eventually ran as independent.

Mayor Binay further pointed out that an NP-LP alliance had run against the Binays in the last two elections.

He also said Bondal and Enciso did not include in the plunder complaint their allies who were co-authors of the ordinance appropriating funds for the parking building.

The mayor also said he had heard talks that he and all members of the Makati City council would be suspended, and if this happened, Bondal’s ally would sit as mayor and would fill the council with other allies.


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TAGS: Makati City, mayor, News, overpricing, Plunder, Politics, Senate

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