We’ll probe Drilon if asked, say lawmakers
MANILA, Philippines—If a resolution were filed, the Senate Blue Ribbon committee would have no choice but to inquire into allegations that the Iloilo Convention Center (ICC) was overpriced, according to some senators.
Senate President Franklin Drilon, Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson and Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez have been charged with plunder in the Ombudsman over the construction of the P488-million convention center.
“If someone files a resolution, why not? There are members of the minority who can do that—Senator JV, Senator Nancy. That should be heard, and the committee should be as assiduous,” said Sen. Francis Escudero in an interview over dwIZ radio on Friday.
Drilon belongs to the administration Liberal Party, while Singson and Jimenez were appointed by President Benigno Aquino III.
So far, not one of the opposition senators—Tito Sotto, Gregorio Honasan, Nancy Binay or JV Ejercito—have filed a resolution calling for an inquiry into the convention center.
A blue ribbon subcommittee is currently investigating alleged overpricing in the construction of the Makati City Hall Building II during the term as mayor of the city of Vice President Jejomar Binay, the father of Senator Binay.
Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago has filed Senate Resolution No. 906 seeking an inquiry into alleged anomalous transactions between Hilmarc’s Construction Corp., the contractor of the Makati parking building, and local government units.
Critics had questioned the apparent lack of zeal in investigating allies of the administration, like Drilon, while seemingly putting through the wringer members of the opposition, like Binay, for alleged corruption.
The Blue Ribbon committee is chaired by administration Sen. Teofisto Guingona III. The subcommittee investigating Binay is headed by Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, erstwhile ally of Binay in the opposition UNA coalition.
Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano agreed that an inquiry into the Iloilo Convention Center would be the next logical step once a resolution was filed.
“If a resolution is filed about the ICC, it should be lined up at the Blue Ribbon committee,” Cayetano told reporters also on Friday.
“But remember, it’s not a matter of filing, you have to have evidence there,” he said.
“If there is evidence of an overprice, why not? Claiming it’s overpriced is easy,” he added.
Manuel Mejorada, former Iloilo provincial administrator, filed the plunder complaint, saying that Drilon’s pet project, which is being undertaken by Hilmarc’s, was a “high-level” conspiracy engineered by the Senate President “to build an avenue for corruption.”
Mejorada charged that it was funded by Drilon’s Priority Development Assistance Fund or pork barrel and funds from the Disbursement Acceleration Program, an administration savings impounding mechanism. The Supreme Court has ruled both funds as unconstitutional.
Drilon has dismissed the charges against him as malicious and ridiculous. He denied taking part in the bidding for the convention center whose completion is being rushed in time to host Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meetings in September next year.
Guingona has also come under pressure to open an inquiry into the alleged misuse by the administration of the Malampaya Fund from the natural gas project off Palawan.
He had set the first hearing on Malampaya in October but had to reset it after it coincided with the hearings on the new Makati office and parking building.
For months now, the Blue Ribbon subcommittee has been hearing evidence on the P2.28-billion office and parking building whose construction was allegedly attended by an over price and allegations that Binay had ordered the bidding rigged to favor Hilmarc’s, and that he had pocketed huge kickbacks.
The investigation led to a 350-hectare high-end farm in Rosario, Batangas, allegedly owned by Binay through dummies.
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