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Peña’s turn to be rapped over cakes

Acting Makati City Mayor Romulo Peña is facing the same allegation earlier leveled against suspended Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay Jr.: That the free birthday cakes he is handing out to the city’s senior citizens are overpriced.

Former Makati vice mayor Roberto Brillante, a longtime political nemesis of then city mayor and now Vice President Jejomar Binay, filed a graft complaint against Peña in the Office of the Ombudsman on Tuesday.

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In a media statement, Brillante alleged that the P8.6-million contract for the supply of cakes that Peña entered into shortly after he took over as acting mayor in July was 35 percent more expensive than the deal forged under the younger Binay’s watch.

Brillante also claimed that the procurement of the contract to supply and deliver the birthday cakes was anomalous.

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The price of the birthday cakes given to Makati’s senior citizens was covered by the corruption allegations hounding the Binays in an investigation conducted by the Senate blue ribbon subcommittee.

After Junjun Binay stepped down in July to serve a six-month preventive suspension order from the Ombudsman in connection with another graft allegation, Peña canceled the existing cake contract and sought a new deal.

“The contract for the cakes of Makati senior citizens was overpriced by P3,036,337 or 35 percent higher than what Makati City was paying under Binay’s previous contract prior to Peña’s assumption as acting mayor,” Brillante said.

He said Peña awarded the P8,666,080 contract to his chosen supplier, Goldilocks Inc., to supply 31,107 cakes from Aug. 15 to Dec. 31 this year.

The cakes under the new contract were priced at P280 each, lower than the previous price, but the size was reduced to nine inches in diameter and two inches in thickness.

‘Shocked by Tito Bobby’

Brillante said the previous supplier, Timstate/Bakerite Food and Beverage Corp., delivered the cakes at P306 per piece, which is P26 higher than the current price, but the previous cake was bigger at nine inches in diameter and four inches in thickness “or about twice the size of what Goldilocks delivers under the Peña contract.”

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Peña on Tuesday dismissed Brillante’s complaint as “absurd and baseless.”

In a text message to the Inquirer, the acting mayor said “we were shocked but we will wait for the copy of the complaint of Tito (uncle) Bobby.”

Peña’s spokesperson Gilbert de los Reyes also found the complaint “ridiculous.” “How can that (allegation) be possible when our bidding process where Goldilocks was selected was aboveboard and even open to the media for public scrutiny?’’

The complaint was “a desperate attempt to smear the reputation of Mayor Peña as a genuine reformer in cleansing the City Hall procurement process,” De los Reyes added. “I am certain the people of Makati will dismiss this outrageous charge and,  in the end, the case will be dismissed as there is no legal basis that would support it.”

Goldilocks was the lone bidder that showed up during the bid conference for the cakes held Aug. 10, offering an P8.6-million bid. City Hall’s  approved budget for the cake project was P9.3  million.

The price given by the bakeshop for each cake ranged from P266 to P285 depending on the three flavors indicated in the project requirements (choco, marble and mocha).

The bidding also drew criticism from a Binay ally, Councilor Marie Alethea Casal-Uy, who accused the Peña camp of withholding crucial information that could help the public arrive at “a fair comparison” between the old and new contract.

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TAGS: Birthday cakes, Makati, overpricing, Roberto Brillante, Romulo Peña
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