BSP veep also HUDCC exec under Binay
MANILA, Philippines–As the Commission on Audit (COA) begins to look into a land deal entered into by the Boy Scouts of the Philippines (BSP), one of its officials was accused of conflict of interest for reporting to Vice President Jejomar Binay in the latter’s capacity as head of the government’s housing program.
At the 16th hearing of the Senate blue ribbon subcommittee on irregularities in Makati when the Vice President was its mayor, Wendell Avisado found himself in the hot seat when it was learned he has wearing two hats—as senior vice president of the BSP and as assistant secretary of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC).
Binay, a longtime president of the BSP, chairs the HUDCC.
It was former Makati City Vice Mayor Ernesto Mercado who pointed out this fact.
Avisado ended up tangling with Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano who questioned how the BSP could conduct a fair investigation of its transaction with Alphaland to develop a one-hectare BSP property in Makati when the former enjoyed an “intimate relationship” with the Vice President.
Mercado, a former BSP senior vice president, called for a secretary general for the BSP that would serve full time in the organization so that its affairs could be managed properly.
Mercado noted that Avisado was senior vice president and acting as secretary general of the BSP while at the same time serving as HUDCC assistant secretary.
“I have nothing against you (Avisado) but what I’m saying … it’s because the Vice President does not want to entrust his secrets in the BSP to someone who is not his ally,” Mercado said.
This prompted Cayetano to tell Avisado that the latter had conflict of interest, pointing out that Avisado had come out with statements that the BSP would look into the alleged anomalies in the land deal with Alphaland.
“So there is conflict … because you cannot find anything wrong done by your president (in reference to Binay),” the senator said.
Avisado said he was a political appointee but when Cayetano asked who recommended him, he replied it was Binay.
Cayetano told Avisado that he could not be in a body that was investigating anomalies involving Binay when he has an “intimate” relationship with him, being an HUDCC assistant secretary.
“So, it’s only natural that people will think that you are here to protect his (Binay) interest,” the senator said.
“No, I’m here to protect the interest of the BSP,” Avisado said.
Take a leave
Cayetano challenged Avisado to step down for a few months from the BSP so that an independent person could make a fair internal investigation.
Avisado said he would leave it to the BSP national executive board to make the decision, prompting Cayetano to remind him that Sen. Nancy Binay inhibited herself from participating in the Senate blue ribbon subcommittee as the body was investigating her father.
“And I respect her for that. She did not say ‘it’s up to my colleagues to remove me from the committee,”’ he said.
Avisado still maintained he would just report Cayetano’s proposal to the board.
“Don’t tell me there is no conflict of interest because you prioritize your relationship with the Vice President … If you really love the BSP … I challenge the national executive board, who do you love most? Your position, politics, who will be the next president or do you love more the BSP?” the senator said.
Cayetano said that if the BSP officials loved the organization they would have created a management committee to fix things there.
Avisado said he would take this up with the board and Cayetano replied by assuring him that he would not be removed from the board.
At the hearing, acting COA chief Heidi Mendoza said the commission had created an audit group to investigate the BSP from 2012 onwards. But Mendoza also said the panel could also look at previous transactions to complete the audit.
On Cayetano’s questioning, Mendoza said the COA was empowered to audit the BSP and could look into irregular transactions and incidents of fraud.
Also at the hearing, former BSP president Roberto Pagdanganan said the BSP had created a committee in October last year to determine the units that it would get from its 15-percent share in its deal with Alphaland to develop Alphaland Makati Place.
Pagdanganan said this was decided upon by the board in a meeting on Feb. 26.
This prompted Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III to say that the land deal was struck in 2008 and that what prompted the BSP to take this action were the Senate hearings.
Pagdanganan said the BSP was trying to get a “fair” deal for itself but Cayetano said the BSP should work for the “best” deal.
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