Binay son formally charged with graft
What started out as a flood of stinging allegations against Vice President Jejomar Binay and his family may have just become the country’s next most interesting courtroom drama.
The Office of the Ombudsman yesterday formally brought criminal charges against Binay’s son, dismissed Makati Mayor Junjun Binay, and 20 former officials of the Makati government and two private individuals over the alleged irregularities in the construction of the P2.3-billion Makati City Hall Building II.
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales earlier recommended the indictment of the Vice President, but acknowledged that being an impeachable officer the elder Binay cannot be haled to court at this time.
In six separate formal charges (information), the antigraft body held the younger Binay and the other accused liable for one count of graft and five counts of falsification of public documents for allegedly rigging the bidding for the construction of the car park building.
The Ombudsman, represented by prosecution officer Anna Isabel Aurellano, recommended bail of P150,000 for each of the respondents.
In filing the case for falsification of public documents, the Ombudsman said Junjun Binay et al. took advantage of their positions and conspired with each other to “unlawfully and feloniously commit falsification by fabricating or causing the fabrication” of the invitation for public bidding of the parking building in July to August 2011.
It said the accused submitted bogus documents to make it appear that the invitation to bid came out in the tabloid Balita “when in truth and in fact … no such (invitation) was published.”
Besides Junjun Binay, named respondents in the case were Marjorie de Veyra, Gerardo San Gabriel, Pio Kenneth Dasal, Lorenza Amores and Manolito Uyaco, who composed the bids and awards committee at the time which granted the multibillion-peso contract to Hilmarc’s Construction Corp.
They were also accused of “circumventing” the Government Procurement Reform Act, or Republic Act No. 9184, by failing to conduct the mandated preprocurement conference and to post the invitation to bid in the city government’s website.
The antigraft body said the respondents also prepared and signed the abstract of bids and prequalification report “despite knowing that absence of public bidding.”
Indicted for graft were Junjun Binay, De Veyra, San Gabriel, Dasal, Amores, Uyaco, Mario Badillo, Nelia Barlis, Efren Canlas, Cecilio Lim III, Connie Consulta, Eleno Mendoza Jr. and Rodel Nayve.
Included as private respondents were Orlando Mateo of Mana Architecture and Interior Design Co. and Efren Canlas of Hilmarc’s.
Junjun Binay’s lawyer questioned the timing of the indictment of his client.
“The timing is suspicious because (it comes) at a time [when] the ratings of (Vice President Jejomar) Binay, who is running for President, are rising,” said lawyer Claro Certeza.
Certeza noted that Junjun Binay’s lawyers had “long filed” a motion for reconsideration on the finding of probable cause for the graft and falsification of public documents charges, but the Ombudsman “merely sat” on it, he said.
“Now, lo and behold,” a case is filed, the lawyer said.
The filing of the case is “obviously” designed to “counteract the current rating position” of the Vice President, Certeza said.
Bias and partiality
The elder Binay’s spokesperson, Rico Quicho, blamed politicking in the filing of the case against Junjun Binay, again accusing Morales of bias.
“The bias and partiality of the Ombudsman is beyond dispute. It has played loose with the law and the Constitution in persecuting the Vice President and his family and those in the opposition,” Quicho said.
He noted the timing of the Ombudsman’s release of its decisions pertaining to the Binays.
“It is obvious by now that the release of the Ombudsman orders follows a pattern—from the time the Vice President filed his certificate of candicacy up until the release of the recent Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey where the Vice President retained the top slot in presidential preference,” he said.
“These are politically calculated moves which are part of the demolition by perception efforts being waged by the Liberal Party against the Vice President,” he added.
Joey Salgado, a spokesperson for the Binay family, said the Ombudsman’s office filed the case against the younger Binay because it was “aware” that it cannot file a case against the Vice President.
“They filed the case even if they knew for a fact that (Jujun Binay) was not the mayor when the project started,” Salgado said.
He claimed that when the younger Binay was elected mayor of Makati, the project was nearing completion and “he merely performed his ministerial function.”
“These points were raised by (Junjun) in his motion for reconsideration but were ignored by the Ombudsman,” Salgado said.
Certeza said they would file a motion for determination of probable cause before the Sandiganbayan on Monday.
He said this was because he believed there was “no probable cause” for the filing of charges against the former mayor and that the Sandiganbayan “should not issue a warrant of arrest” in the first place.
But just in case, Junjun Binay will be posting bail on Monday, the lawyer said.
Quicho said the filing of the charges would not hamper the elder Binay’s quest for the presidency.
“No amount of political persecution and harassment will stop the Vice President from pushing his propoor agenda. He is not new to political harassment. The Vice President has stood up against oppression, tyranny and poverty, from the time he was an activist and human rights lawyer during martial law and until today as presidential candidate of UNA [United Nationalist Alliance],” Quicho said.
“We look forward to facing these frivolous charges in a fair and impartial court,” he said.
The formal filing of the cases against Junjun Binay et al. came two weeks after Morales affirmed her decision to impose a lifetime ban from working in the government against the younger Binay and his fellow accused.
The cases stemmed from a complaint filed by Makati City Councilor Renato Bondal and Nicolas Enciso VI of the Save Makati Movement in the Ombudsman in 2014.
The allegations paved the way for a record 25 hearings conducted by the Senate blue ribbon subcommittee for more than a year.
In upholding the indictment of the younger Binay and the others, the Ombudsman said the former City Hall officials did not conduct a public bidding when the contract for the design of the multibillion-peso infrastructure project was awarded to Mana in November 2007.
The Vice President was then then mayor of Makati, one of the country’s richest municipalities which hosts the country’s key financial district.
According to the Ombudsman, the evidence presented “showed (that) the procurement process was manipulated to ensure the award of the contract to Mana.”
It said the payment of P12 million to Mana was approved “despite the incomplete submission of deliverables such as design plans, working drawings and technical specifications.”
The respondents, it added, “colluded” with Hilmarc’s to “manipulate” five public biddings to ensure that the construction firm would win the lucrative project.
“The construction projects were awarded to Hilmarc’s despite the lack of the required publication of the invitations to bid, with Hilmarc’s as the lone bidder in four phases of the project,” the Ombudsman said.
It said the erring former public officials violated the law as the construction of the parking building started despite the failure of Hilmarc’s to present the approved design standards, contract plans, agency cost estimates and detailed engineering and programs of work.
“No preprocurement conference was undertaken and bid documents were made available only for one day in violation of procurement rules and regulations,” the Ombudsman said.
The antigraft body also questioned the “extraordinary speed” with which the negotiation and evaluation of bid proposals were conducted in November 2007.
Said the Ombudsman: “For one hour only, the bids and awards committee completed the entire negotiation proceedings where bid proposals of seven architectural firms that allegedly participated in this project were opened and evaluated.” With reports from Kristine Felisse Mangunay and Tarra Quismundo
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