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Graft complaints vs Drilon dismissed

/ 12:57 AM May 21, 2015

ILOILO CITY—The Ombudsman has dismissed the graft complaints against Senate President Franklin Drilon and other government officials in relation to alleged overpricing and other irregularities in the construction of the Iloilo Convention Center (ICC).

A special panel created to investigate the allegations issued a joint resolution dated May 13 dismissing the administrative and criminal complaints filed by former Iloilo provincial administrator Manuel Mejorada.

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“There is no specific evidence that respondents appropriated, misappropriated, consented, or through abandonment or negligence permitted another to take the subject funds,” according to the 27-page resolution.

Online sources

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The special panel concluded that Mejorada failed to prove his allegations of irregularities in the P747-million project and criticized his reliance on online sources.

“Complainants’ reliance on online sources cannot be given credence in establishing the culpability of respondents. Given the seriousness of the allegation, complainant should come forward not with unreliable sources but with concrete evidence,” according to the resolution.

Mejorada said he has not received an official copy of the resolution but got a copy dated May 13 from the Ombudsman central office.

He stood by his allegations of overpricing and other irregularities and said he would file a motion for reconsideration.

“I will bring the case to the Court of Appeals and Supreme Court if necessary,” he told the Inquirer.

Rushed

He said the special panel erred in its resolution and ignored or disregarded key documentary evidences.

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In a statement, Mejorada said the resolution was “inordinately rushed without delving deeply into the evidence.”

He said the “speed and dispatch with which the special panel submitted its joint resolution is questionable, as this case is complex and involved many issues.”

Drilon welcomed the dismissal of the complaint saying this showed “that the baseless and malicious allegations hurled against me and the ICC are completely without merit.”

“I have always been confident since day one in the (Ombudsman’s) wisdom and competence to see through these lies concocted to discredit us and to jeopardize the implementation of the ICC,” he said.

Value engineering

The panel ruled that there were no irregularities in the procurement process including the conduct of public bidding and the introduction of “value-engineering” methods in the construction.

Value engineering involves modification in original materials and design to lower costs without changing functionality and architectural design.

Aside from Drilon, the respondents included Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson, Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr., Mark Lapid, chief operating officer of the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority, and six other officials of the Department of Public Works and Highways.

Other respondents

Also named respondents were architect William Coscolluela and Efren Canlas, president of the Hilmarcs Construction Corp. (HCC), the contractor of the project.

The HCC is the contractor of the Makati City Hall Building II, which is also facing corruption allegations.

The ICC is being built on a 1.7-hectare lot valued at P200 million donated by developer Megaworld Corp. The lot is part of the company’s 54-hectare property at the former Iloilo airport in Mandurriao District being developed as the Iloilo Business Park.

The construction of the ICC is being rushed for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meetings in Iloilo in September and October. With a report from Leila B. Salaverria in Manila

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TAGS: corruption, Franklin Drilon, Iloilo Convention Center, News, Regions
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