Binay to get formal Senate invite | Inquirer News

Binay to get formal Senate invite

By: - Deputy Day Desk Chief / @TJBurgonioINQ
/ 05:29 AM August 31, 2014

MANILA, Philippines—Vice President Jejomar Binay will have his day in the Senate. An entire Senate investigation session will be reserved for Binay to respond to charges over the allegedly overpriced Makati parking building that began construction when he was the mayor, Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III said on Saturday.

The Senate blue ribbon subcommittee will issue a formal invitation to Binay after the two hearings to be held this week, including an ocular inspection of the controversial P2.28-billion 11-story building, said Pimentel, who chairs the investigating subcommittee.

The subcommittee is allotting a day’s session just to hear Binay so his testimony would not be diluted by that of others, he explained.


Vice President Jejomar Binay. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

“He will have his day in the Senate,” Pimentel said in a phone interview.


Politically charged

“As far as the chairman is concerned, he will be treated fairly, and the senators will be reminded to treat the witness fairly, and respect the rights of the witnesses appearing before the committee,” he added.

Binay should expect tough questions, however, Pimentel said.

But Binay earlier rejected the challenge issued by Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano daring him to appear at the hearing. He said he was deferring to the authority of the Ombudsman to investigate the plunder complaint against him over the alleged overprice of the Makati building.

The Vice President angrily denied charges that he made money from the building, and accused Cayetano and Sen. Antonio Trillanes, the two senators who initiated the Senate probe, of staging a “politicized” inquiry.

The inquiry, prompted by the plunder complaint filed against Binay by his political rivals in Makati, has taken on a political color because some senators are seen to be Binay’s rivals in the 2016 presidential elections.


Pimentel said he recognized the fact that the hearing had become politically charged since those involved were “political figures.”

Respectful invitation

“We can’t do anything about that. Let’s concentrate on the issue, which is the alleged overpricing of the government project. And let us not be distracted by criticism that it’s all political because those involved are political figures,” he said.

Pimentel acknowledged that Binay could reject the invitation. If that were to happen, the committee cannot compel him to appear, he said.

The committee cannot issue an order compelling him to attend the hearings, Pimentel said.

“We can’t compel him to appear, we can only invite him,” he said.

“It will be a respectful invitation which can be declined with no repercussions. Accept it, well and good. Reject it, no derogatory conclusion, nothing,” he said.

The Vice President’s son, Makati Mayor Junjun Binay, has justified the huge cost of the building, claiming that it was because the structure was “world-class” and was a “green building.”

The mayor presented a Commission on Audit evaluation report clearing it of any overprice, but higher-ranking COA officials said the report was not final.

Armed with tape measure

Pimentel said Trillanes and Sen. Grace Poe would be joining him on Monday morning to conduct an ocular inspection of the building. The inspection has been cleared with the city administrator, he said.

The inspection is being done to verify claims that the structure is world-class and a green building at that, as well as to determine its true cost, he said.

Pimentel said he would be bringing a tape measure so he could measure the floor area as conflicting figures came out during the hearings.

“I’m obsessed with the floor area. What’s the actual floor area, gross floor area of the building footprint, and what’s the gross floor area of the entire project? We’re talking here of per square meter cost so we must be very accurate,” he said.

Differing figures

The senator said he was disappointed at the differing figures given of the building’s gross floor area—more than 31,900 square meters from the Makati government, and more than 33,000 sq m from the COA.

“How can a P2-billion building have two gross floor areas? We can’t even get a budget from the P2 billion to measure the gross floor area…Who knows, when we measure the area, we may get a third figure,” he said.

To determine overprice, one has to look at the “enormity of the project,” he said. The bigger the project, the more expensive it is, he said.

Pimentel said the building’s number of floors should also be looked into.

The building was initially described as having a basement and 10 floors above ground. But an assistant city engineer testified that it has a mezzanine on the first floor, he said.

“That’s an extra floor. That has not been talked about until this was brought out. Better to take a look because there could be some unstated floor areas,” he said.


Lawyer claims vehicles from Binay overpriced

Binay benefited from ‘overpriced’ Makati building—former ally

Mayor Binay says Makati City Hall 2 a world-class building

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TAGS: corruption, Grace Poe, Graft

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