Drilon slams ‘malicious, baseless’ allegations of corruption on Iloilo property
MANILA, Philippines — Senate President Franklin Drilon faced his colleagues and accuser on Thursday at the start of the investigation into allegations of corruption he was supposed to have committed in the construction of the Iloilo Convention Center (ICC).
“To set the record straight, I had nothing to do with the bidding for the project – I did not participate in the constitution of the Bids and Awards Committee; I did not interfere with any part of the bidding process; nor did I nominate or appoint the winning bidder,” said Drilon as he read from a prepared statement.
“I did not even know, nor did I have any interest in, the identity of the winning bidder, until I was informed by the DPWH after the contract had already been awarded. Neither did I recommend any supplier or a single worker, in the construction of the project. The preparation or conduct of the bidding, its award, or its implementation was wholly undertaken by DPWH and DOT,” he said.
DPWH is the Department of Public Works and Highways while DOT is Department of Tourism.
Former provincial administrator Manuel Mejorada and former Congressman Augusto Syjuco Jr. have accused Drilon of alleged corruption. Syjuco claimed in an open letter he sent to senators ahead of Thursday’s investigation that the ICC was overpriced.
The hearing by the committee headed by Senator Teofisto Guingona III started past 10 a.m.
“I also vehemently deny the accusation that I caused the ICC Project to be overpriced. The ICC Project is not overpriced. This is supported by the rigorous processes and documentation of the DPWH, as verified and counter-checked by the independent processes and documentation of the DOT through the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority or TIEZA.”
“In fact, let me just highlight that I did not even participate in determining the approved budget for the ICC Project, which is properly within the competence of the implementing agency, the DPWH and the DOT in this case,” said the Senate leader.
“I most strongly deny the baseless and malicious allegations that I plundered the coffers of government, that I malversed public funds, and that I committed graft and corrupt acts in relation to the ICC project,” he added.
Drilon claimed that on the contrary because of his initiative, the government through the DOT acquired through donation, a 17,371 square-meter prime property, worth at least P521 million for the ICC site.
He said the lot was donated by Megaworld Property Inc. to the DOT on Nov. 13, 2012 while the architect and engineering design prepared by W.V Coscolleula and Associates was also donated to the government.
Thus, the Senate leader said, the government did not spend anything for the land and the architectural services for the ICC Project.
“In defense of my name, my honor and my family, I specifically and categorically deny the baseless, speculative, and wild allegations of Mr. Mejorada. I did not commit any wrongdoing in the construction of Iloilo Convention Center,” said Drilon.
Before ending his statement, Drilon announced that he would inhibit from the investigation but would make himself available to answer questions after hearing the statements of other resource persons.
The hearing was prompted by Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago’s resolution, seeking an inquiry into the alleged anomalous transactions involving multibillions of pesos in public funds between Hilmarc’s Construction Corp. and certain local government units.
The resolution specifically cited various news reports that the two-story ICC, which reportedly cost a total of P747 million, was overpriced by P531 million. The fund used for the project was also reportedly sourced out of Drilon’s Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) also known as “pork barrel” fund in 2012 and through the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) in 2013.
The issue was also the subject of a complaint filed at the Office of the Ombudsman by Mejorada against Drilon and other officials involved in the construction of the project.
But the Senate leader has repeatedly denied the allegation, saying it was “malicious” and “baseless” because it was coming from Mejorada, who he said he fired as consultant.
Aside from Drilon, the committee also invited other resource persons like Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson, Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr., Robert Henson, president of Hilmarc’s, and Mejorada, among others.
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