Next episode on Binay ‘teleserye’: Housing deals
MANILA, Philippines–Next episode in the long-running corruption investigation of Vice President Jejomar Binay in the Senate: The award of contracts to favored developers in government mass housing projects.
Government agencies concerned are now investigating the contract awards and the irregularity will be scrutinized by the Senate blue ribbon subcommittee that is looking into allegations of corruption against Binay, Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV said on Monday.
“There are now anomalies being uncovered in his present position as chair of HUDCC (Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council),” Trillanes told reporters in a phone-patch interview.
Quoting government agencies, Trillanes said Binay awarded deals to “favored contractors” with existing arrangements with Pag-Ibig Fund for the construction of government housing projects.
“What we know is that this is a partnership,” he added. “In effect, they split the earnings.”
Trillanes, however, could not immediately cite figures, but he said the irregularity involved Pag-Ibig funds.
Binay’s camp scoffed at Trillanes’ claim of corruption in HUDCC and Pag-Ibig Fund, saying that reforms introduced by the Vice President had prevented a repeat of housing scams, such as the P6-billion Globe Asiatique mess of 2011 for which the real-estate developer’s president, Delfin Lee, is now in jail facing charges of syndicated fraud.
Joey Salgado, Binay’s spokesman, said Pag-Ibig Fund “services have improved, benefits have been expanded, and the fund [has grown] under the leadership of the Vice President.”
Salgado criticized Trillanes for resorting to character assassination.
Tough to dislodge
“Since he has admitted casting a moist eye on the presidency, Trillanes should show what he has done . . . to help [the] people and explain where and how he spent his millions in [Priority Development Assistance Fund] and [Disbursement Acceleration Program] funds,” Salgado said.
Binay is proving tough to dislodge from the lead in voter preference for president in 2016. Early polls show him still leading other potential presidential candidates despite the the Makati scandal.
Trillanes said President Aquino was aware of the investigation by government agencies of the housing contract awards.
While the new hit on Binay is not covered by the resolution he filed seeking an inquiry into allegations of corruption against Binay when the Vice President was mayor of Makati City, Trillanes said he expected the blue ribbon subcommittee to take it up.
“I will not include it on the agenda, but I can’t preclude that the issues would branch out and lead to that,” he said.
Trillanes said he had been given documents on other irregularities. The subcommittee would tackle those allegations, he said.
“It’s a new angle in corruption that you won’t expect somebody to commit, but the Vice President did it just the same. For him, everyone is fair game,” he said.
The blue ribbon subcommittee headed by Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III will resume its inquiry into alleged corruption in Makati on Jan. 22, with a hearing on overpricing in the construction of the P700-million Makati Science High School.
Trillanes said he was amenable to wrapping up the inquiry in March, but argued that the subcommittee should be flexible and extend it if more “explosive issues” cropped up.
“If issues crop up, we can’t turn our back on these. Might as well give an allowance. For as long as there is information that needs to be investigated, then let’s continue the hearing,” he said.
Pimentel said earlier that if he could convince Trillanes to limit the scope of the investigation, the subcommittee could wrap up the inquiry by March.
In his resolution, Trillanes sought an inquiry into the construction of the P2.28-billion Makati City Hall Building II, the main City Hall, and other alleged irregularities in Makati.
“Maybe we could limit the alleged other anomalies. The subcommittee can’t act as if it will audit all the transactions of Makati. We can’t do all of that. We have a lot of things to do,” Pimentel said.
He said that after wrapping up the Makati Science High School inquiry, he would ask Trillanes if he wanted to proceed with the main City Hall investigation.–With a report from Christine O. Avendaño
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.