Mejorada wasted Senate and people’s time–Drilon
MANILA, Philippines—Manuel Mejorada wasted the Senate’s time but his antics hopefully should not spoil Iloilo City’s hosting of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit next year, Senate President Franklin Drilon said Friday.
Mejorada admitted to senators last Thursday he relied on Wikipedia and the “whispers’’ of local architects to back his claim that the P700-million Iloilo Convention Center was overpriced.
Mejorada, who filed a plunder complaint against Drilon, Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson and Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez, also admitted he had no evidence of conspiracy among the three officials.
“He wasted the time not only of the Senate, but the whole country because of his baseless accusations,’’ Drilon said over Bombo Radyo.
A day after facing Mejorada at the inquiry into the Iloilo Convention Center, Drilon said his accuser’s performance reminded him of the title of Lino Brocka’s film, “Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang (You Were Weighed and Found Wanting).’’
“That’s how I see him. He came to the Senate and admitted his evidence was whispers. It’s the first time I heard of a complainant who used the argument, ‘Someone whispered to me’,’’ he said.
At the Blue Ribbon Committee hearing, Drilon admitted proposing the construction of the convention center Megaworld Corp. president Andrew Tan to spur tourism in the province.
Tan agreed and donated a 17,371-square-meter lot for the center on condition Megaworld’s conceptual design would be followed.
Drilon admitted that Megaworld would benefit from the donation since the convention center was located between its two hotels, Richmonde Hotel and Marriott Courtyard Hotel, right inside Megaworld’s P25-billion Iloilo Business Park.
Mejorada, former Iloilo provincial administrator, had alleged that the convention center was a “high-level” conspiracy engineered by Drilon “to build an avenue for corruption.’’
Mejorada charged that this was funded with Drilon’s allocation under the Priority Development Assistance Fund and Malacañang’s government savings impounding mechanism, Disbursement Acceleration Program. Drilon had dismissed the charges as malicious and ridiculous.
Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago filed Resolution No. 906 seeking an inquiry into alleged anomalous transactions between Hilmarc’s Construction Corp. and local government units, including the Iloilo Convention Center.
Drilon expressed hope Friday that Mejorada’s moves would not derail Iloilo’s hosting of the APEC meetings, with the convention center serving as a venue of senior ministerial meetings in September next year. Otherwise, he said, he would lay the blame on Mejorada.
“It’s important to us Ilonggos that our hosting of APEC push through. Now, if the Cabinet members change their mind about holding APEC meetings in Iloilo, we have no one else to blame but Mejorada,’’ Drilon said. “That’s why I’m asking Mejorada not to stop our dream to develop.’’
Drilon ruled out any further legal action against Mejorada, deferring to the Department of Justice to decide on a libel suit he filed against his former aide.
Jimenez, who heads the department that owns the donated lot and convention center, disagreed, however, that the hearing was a waste of the government’s time and resources.
“It’s a never waste of time when we’re able to aid future legislation, but is it a waste of time trying to argue with someone who has no evidence? Yes, absolutely,’’ he said in an interview after the hearing.
Singson proposed that senators look at amending the Government Procurement Reform Act by mandating “value engineering’’ for big-ticket items if only to reduce their costs.
After conducting a value engineering or revision of the structural design, Hilmarc’s Construction Corp. managed to reduce their proposed cost from P608 million to P479 million for phase 1 of the project, Singson said.
Otherwise, the project went through regular bidding. But being a convention center with a large hall, this could not be compared to a typical building, he said.
Sen. Sergio Osmeña III agreed that Mejorada offered no proof of overprice.
“There is no proof yet of overprice. I am not saying there will be no proof. What I am saying is that it must be proven, because comparison on a per square meter basis of construction cost is like comparing a banana with a papaya,’’ he said after the hearing.
Osmeña has asked the committee to vet the affidavit of former Iloilo Rep. Augusto Syjuco, who has also filed a plunder complaint against Drilon over the convention center, before he appears at the next hearing.
“We can’t just accept resource persons who will say things we don’t know about. And then they will say all of the crazy things. That’s a no-no. Unless he shows documentation, we’re not going to allow, we should not allow Senate hearings to be forums for invectives,’’ he said.
“We want anybody to come forth with an affidavit and with documentary proof, to at least establish some basis that what they are saying is true. But I will not, whoever you are, I will not accept you and say, ‘Come talk before the committee.’ We have to protect also other people here,’’ he added.
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