Ombudsman finds probable cause to charge VP Binay with graft
On the day Vice President Jejomar Binay filed his candidacy for President, the Office of the Ombudsman said it has found probable cause to charge him with graft, malversation and falsification of public documents in connection with the allegedly overpriced Makati City Hall Building II.
In an interview on Monday, Ombudsman Field Investigating Office Acting Director Maria Janina Hidalgo disclosed the antigraft body’s findings of a yearlong investigation on the vice president and his son in connection with the alleged anomalies in the construction and design of the Makati carpark building, said to be the most expensive parking building in the country.
Binay is set to face four counts of violation of Section 3 (e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act or Republic Act No. 3019, six counts of Falsification of Public Documents and one count of Malversation for his involvement in phases 1 and 2 of the carpark project
The Ombudsman made the statement a few hours after Binay filed his certificate of candidacy for President with his running mate Senator Gringo Honasan at the Commission on Elections on Monday morning.
“The Vice President approved several payments and various other acts despite the fact that there were deficiencies and violations of Republic Act 9185 which is in relation to the procurement processes required by government prior to the application and implementation of projects such as these,” Hidalgo said.
“Ang extent ng kanyang violation ang pag-approve niya ng mga processes katulad ng disbursements at releases of funds despite the anomalies when he was city mayor of Makati,” she added.
Hidalgo also explained that as far as the Ombudsman is concerned, the timing was not suspicious and that the Ombudsman only wanted to inform the voters of the credentials of the candidates in the upcoming elections.
She said the fact-finding investigation started in September last year and the preliminary investigation in March 2015.
“Hindi ito minadali. Ang dapat pong malaman ng ating mga kababayan ay nagsimula ito September 2014, higit isang taon na mula ng imbestigahan ang bagay na ito, medyo matagal na po yun,” Hidalgo said.
“Nagkataon lang na lumabas ngayon. This is a matter of public concern. People have to be aware because the elections are coming up and people have to know as part of the mandate of the Ombudsman to inform the country of its investigation,” she said.
Hidalgo said since the vice president is immune from suit, the Ombudsman if it upholds its resolution on probable cause will have to wait until the end of Binay’s term to file the charges.
In a statement, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales junked VP Binay’s comment that the office has no jurisdiction to investigate impeachable officials.
“Being an impeachable officer does not insulate him from investigation,” Morales, an appointee of President Aquino, said.
Morales maintained that Binay was investigated as city mayor and not as vice-president.
“At all events, impeachable officers, like Binay Sr., are within the investigatory power or jurisdiction of this Office,” Morales said.
In case Binay wins in the 2016 polls and becomes President, the Ombudsman would then file the charges after his six-year term, Hidalgo said.
“Yes, he is immune, which is why our investigation and indictment will have to wait until the end of his term,” Hidalgo said.
“What is important for us to remember is that the Office has found probable cause of violations of Section 3(e) of the Republic Act 3019, malversation of public funds, and falsification of public documents against the Vice President, and these cases will be filed by the end of his term,” she added.
Binay’s spokesperson Rico Quicho said it is “malicious” for the Ombudsman to release the graft indictment on the day of the vice president’s filing of candidacy.
Quicho maintained that Binay is innocent from the charges, which served nothing but to derail Binay’s presidential bid.
“Ang timing ay talagang kahina-hinala dahil alam naman natin na ngayong araw na ito, ay nag-file ng Certificate of Candidacy si Vice President Binay. Ngunit talagang dahil napaka-malisyoso nitong Office of the Ombudsman ay itinaon pa nila na ilabas itong order na ito kung kailan magpa-file si Vice President Binay,” Quicho said.
He said Binay’s lawyers are studying the legal remedies in the graft indictment, one of which is the filing of a motion for reconsideration.
“Ito pong paninira, itong panlilibak at demolition by perception na ginagawa ho at ngayon ho kakuntsaba ang Office of the Ombudsman ay hindi po mananaig sapagka’t kahit po anong gawin nilang paghihirap, panggigipit kay Vice President Binay, wala po ito sa mga nararamdaman ng ating mga kababayan na hirap sa pang-araw-araw,” Quicho said.
Binay and his son face graft investigation before the Ombudsman for the alleged overprice and rigging of procurement of the Makati City Hall Building II and Makati Science High School Building.
In a statement, the Ombudsman said the documents showed that the Vice President and his son had approved the Bids and Awards Committee resolutions, notices of awards, contracts and payments using unnumbered/undated disbursement vouchers and obligation requests despite the anomalies.
The Binays awarded the procurement of the design to Mana Architectural and Interior Design (MANA) despite lack of public bidding, the Ombudsman said.
The Binays also allegedly rigged the bidding to favor MANA and approved the release of P11.97 million payment to MANA despite the anomalies.
The Bids and Awards Committee also completed the procurement process for the building with undue haste or only 11 days.
Meanwhile, the procurement for the construction was awarded to Hilmarc’s Construction despite lack of invitations to bid with Hilmarc’s as lone bidder in four phases of the project.
The construction also began despite the absence or approved design standards, contract plans, agency cost estimates, detailed engineering and programs of work.
The Ombudsman also noted collusion among city officials and Hilmarc’s to rig the public biddings.
Mayor Junjun Binay had been ordered dismissed and perpetually barred from public office in connection with his administrative offense for misconduct and dishonesty for allegedly rigging the bidding for the construction and design of the P2.28-billion Makati carpark building project.
While the Binays face graft probe, his running mate Honasan faces a malversation and graft complaint before the Ombudsman in connection with the pork barrel scam. AU
Originally posted as of 3:00 PM | Monday, October 12, 2015
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