No proof: ‘Makati fraud only on cash basis’
MANILA, Philippines–Transactions in Makati when Vice President Jejomar Binay was the mayor of the city were done “cash to cash” so that there would be no paper trail, lawyer Renato Bondal said on Thursday.
Bondal, one of the complainants in the plunder case filed against Binay in the Office of the Ombudsman, was reacting to Binay’s claim in his address to the nation Thursday that there was no evidence to back the charges of corruption against him.
Bondal and Mario Hechanova, former chief of the Makati government’s General Services Division, called a news conference to say that if Binay wants the nation to believe him, he should face the charges of corruption against him in the Senate instead of speaking on television as if he were already campaigning for the presidency.
Bondal and Hechanova are also witnesses against Binay in the Senate inquiry into the alleged overpricing of Makati City Hall Building II.
Also speaking to reporters, Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano said Binay should come to the Senate and refute point by point and under oath the charges against him, which he failed to do in his televised address to the nation on Thursday, he said.
Hechanova and Bondal said Binay devoted much of his speech to campaigning for 2016 instead of answering the charges against him.
Living proof of fraud
Hechanova said he himself was proof that biddings for projects in Makati City were rigged.
As chief of the city’s General Services Division, Hechanova was part of the bids and awards committee, and he admitted at the Senate inquiry that the committee’s members rigged the bidding so that the contract for the parking building would go to Hilmarc’s Construction Corp.
Hechanova said the first phase of the project was worth P400 million, and if one of the contractors were legitimate, it would not have bid P399 million and would have proposed a lower cost to increase its chances of bagging the contract.
“So it was clear that we rigged the bidding because one competitor, which did not have a license to be a contractor, joined the bidding, and for ITP (another contractor), we just increased its supposed bid so that Hilmarc’s would win,” he said.
Hechanova also said the Vice President was misleading the people by saying the parking building should be compared with other government buildings. The Makati parking building has five floors for offices and a roof-deck, and six parking levels, he said.
He said the parking building had mostly open spaces and concrete finish, and there were few divisions there. But the other government buildings were mostly for offices, which had many divisions, ceilings, tiles, and would naturally cost higher.
No paper trail
Bondal contested the Vice President’s statement that there was no proof of his taking kickbacks, which former Makati Vice Mayor Ernesto Mercado, who had been an ally of Binay for a long time, himself testified to at the Senate inquiry.
Testifying at a hearing on Sept. 11, Mercado claimed that he delivered bags of cash to Binay representing 13 percent of every infrastructure project in the city.
Bondal said that being acts of corruption, the transactions were done “cash to cash” so as not to leave a paper trail.
“[The question is, is] Vice Mayor Mercado credible? But isn’t it that they are the ones who said Vice Mayor Mercado is the little mayor? Ergo, they are close to each other. So if Vice Mayor says [Binay] earned 13 percent, that is what he got,” Bondal said.
He also said Binay failed to refute the statement of property appraiser Federico Cuervo that the parking building’s cost should be only about P700 million.
Contrary to what Binay said in his speech, he failed to overturn the evidence so far presented in the Senate hearings on the scandal, Cayetano said.
“Everybody in the world knows that the building is overpriced. He’s the only one who doesn’t. And the explanations he gave, those were the very ones that were debunked and not accepted in the Senate, not because his political foes were sitting in the hearing, but because even the contractors could not defend these,” Cayetano told reporters.
He said the price of the building alone, at P2.3 billion, was proof of irregularity, and this was supported by the direct testimony of former Makati officials who spoke at the hearings based on their personal knowledge of the fraudulent biddings and the kickbacks allegedly received by Binay.
No COA clearance
Binay’s claim that the Commission on Audit (COA) had cleared the building was not true as well, he said, and pointed out that COA Chair Grace Pulido-Tan herself said no clearance for the building had been given yet and that a special audit of the project needed to be conducted after she found red flags.
Cayetano also pointed out that Mayor Jejomar Erwin “Junjun” Binay’s explanation that the parking building was world-class and a green building had been debunked.
The Vice President should not bend the truth for his convenience, Cayetano said.
He noted Binay’s claim that the biddings were not rigged, the building was not overpriced and yet his former officials were corrupt.
If there was no overpricing, there would have been no corruption, Cayetano said.
“What [are you], Mr. Vice President, are you corrupt or are you incompetent?” he asked.
If Binay were corrupt, he would have been involved in the kickbacks and overpricing, he said.
If the Vice President would contend that only his officials were involved, then he was incompetent because he worked with them for three decades and saw nothing, he said.
Binay could not claim competence when he allowed something like this to happen, he added.
Another thing that Binay failed to explain is his family’s wealth, especially since many of its members are public officials whose salaries are paid by taxpayers, Bondal said.
He noted that the Vice President’s son was living in a house with an elevator, and also alleged that the Binay family has many other assets.
He claimed that he and his group are now computing the Binays’ assets and that they have obtained copies of the Binays’ statements of assets, liabilities and net worth.
Bondal also responded to Binay’s criticism that he had admitted that he only guessed the P1,000 cost of the allegedly overpriced cakes that the Makati government gives to senior residents on their birthday.
He said the information should be put in context, since he told the Senate that he only guessed the price because nobody in Makati knew how much these cakes really cost.
“We asked for help from the committee to get the documents that would show their real price,” he said.
As for the parking building, Bondal said city resolutions approved in 2011 supported the observations and questions of COA’s Tan that the building had been ready for use by that year, before two more phases costing P1 billion were added to the structure.
Bondal said Resolutions Nos. 2011-190 and 2011-191 authorized Mayor Junjun Binay to sign contracts for security and janitorial services for several offices, including the parking building for 2012. The entire building was completed in March 2013.
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