Senate to probe Drilon over Iloilo project
MANILA, Philippines–The Senate blue ribbon committee will investigate the alleged overpricing of the P700-million Iloilo Convention Center (ICC), a pet project of Senate President Franklin Drilon, according to its chair, Sen. Teofisto Guingona III.
There is no specific date yet for the probe. Guingona said the investigation of the ICC and other related issues would begin “as soon as initial preparations have been completed.”
“The blue ribbon committee will initiate the probe of these controversies that are also partly covered by Senate Resolution No. 906 filed by Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago,” Guingona said.
Santiago’s resolution, filed in September, sought an inquiry into the alleged anomalous transactions between Hilmarc’s Construction Corp. and certain local government units, including the construction of the allegedly overpriced ICC.
Other projects mentioned in the Santiago resolution included Iloilo City Hall and capitol building, Makati Police Station, Ospital ng Makati, Quezon City General Hospital, the Quezon City civic center and the Valenzuela legislative building. The measure has been referred to the Senate blue ribbon subcommittee.
Hilmarc’s also built the allegedly overpriced Makati City Hall Building II, which is being investigated by a blue ribbon subcommittee. The subcommittee is also tackling allegations of corruption in Makati City in which Vice President Jejomar Binay has been implicated.
‘Nothing to hide’
Before Guingona’s announcement, Drilon said he would not oppose or block any move in the Senate to investigate the alleged overpricing of the ICC, the subject of a plunder complaint against him filed by his former employee, Manuel Mejorada.
“I have nothing to hide. Any inquiry or investigation will validate the facts and figures of this project, and will just show how absurd these vile allegations really are,” Drilon said in a statement.
No member of the Senate minority has filed a resolution to investigate the ICC.
Asked whether the Senate minority would initiate an inquiry into the issue or seek to lead it through a subcommittee, acting Senate Minority Leader Vicente Sotto III said he would consult with the other members of the minority first.
“I will discuss it with the other members,” Sotto said in a text message.
Drilon on Monday said he would not use his position as Senate President “to block or prevent the holding of a Senate blue ribbon committee inquiry into the matter.”
According to him, he was confident that the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) could explain the details of the ICC project and explain its regularity.
Drilon noted that the project was bid out on the watch of Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson, “who is widely known for his integrity.”
He also said he was not involved in the selection of the project’s contractor and did not endorse anyone for it.
“The DPWH, which supervised the ICC, can easily disprove the malicious allegations made against the implementation of the project,” the Senate President said.
Funds from DAP, PDAF, Tieza
“I have no involvement in any way in the bidding process for the project. I was nowhere near that process to intervene, let alone nominate anyone to be the contractor of the project,” he added.
The funds for the construction of the ICC came from Drilon’s Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and allocations coursed through the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) and from the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (Tieza).
The Supreme Court has declared the PDAF and DAP unconstitutional.
Drilon said his accuser should show evidence that the convention center was overpriced. Mejorada alleged that the project was overpriced by P488 million.
Those spreading lies about the project should be held accountable for their actions if their allegations are shown to be wrong and politically motivated, the Senate President said.
Aside from Drilon, included in the plunder complaint were Singson and Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez.
Drilon further said he believed the public would be able to discern that the issues being raised against them were just harassment.
“The ICC is a major undertaking by various agencies, particularly the DPWH, Department of Tourism and Tieza. To say that Secretary Singson, Secretary Jimenez and I all connived to ruin the integrity of the ICC project is absurd, baseless and malicious,” he said.
In an earlier statement, Jimenez said that he had “full trust and confidence in the competence and sincerity of all those involved in the ICC project” and that he believed their actions would hold up to scrutiny.
Singson earlier expressed confidence that the bidding process for the ICC was aboveboard.
Originally posted: 5:04 PM | Monday, November 3rd, 2014
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