Ex-VP Binay faces trial over P2-billion car park
Former Vice President Jejomar Binay has been haled to the Sandiganbayan for his role in building what has been described as the world’s priciest car park in Makati City.
The Office of the Ombudsman on Thursday indicted the 73-year-old Binay and his son, former Makati City Mayor Junjun Binay, on charges of graft, malversation and falsification of public documents over irregularities in the contracts they entered into on the city’s behalf for the Makati City Hall Building II.
The 11-story car park cost the city a staggering P2.28 billion.
The criminal suit drew a swift denunciation from Binay’s spokesperson, Joey Salgado, who blamed its filing on Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales and her “undying loyalty to her [Liberal Party] patrons.”
“This is a diversionary move intended to shield political patrons from public indignation,” Salgado said. He cited the criminal complaints filed against former President Benigno Aquino III in the past two weeks, including graft and malversation over the discontinued Disbursement Acceleration Program.
The charges against Binay were filed in the antigraft tribunal two weeks after he relinquished his post and lost his immunity from suit. The former Vice President lost the May 9 presidential election.
Binay was indicted on four violations of Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, malversation and nine counts of falsification of public documents.
That provision penalizes public officers “causing any undue injury to any party, including the government, or giving any private party any unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference in the discharge of his official administrative or judicial functions through manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence.”
All the charges are bailable. Prosecutors set Binay’s bail at P40,000 for malversation, P30,000 for each count of graft and P24,000 for each count of falsification, for a total of P376,000.
Binay has also been charged with plunder over the alleged overpricing in the contracts, but the Ombudsman is still studying that aspect of the case.
In the graft complaints, the Ombudsman accused the Binays of rigging the bidding for the car park on F. Zobel Street in Barangay Poblacion in favor of preferred contractors, both in its design and construction.
Construction took six years to complete, beginning in 2007 when Binay was still the mayor until 2013 when his son succeeded him. The son would later be dismissed from the service and perpetually disqualified from public office over his own participation in the project.
The younger Binay, along with several other Makati officials, were earlier indicted on a separate graft and falsification charges. In the new charges, he was named respondent in the malversation case, as well as in two counts of graft.
The Makati car park was described by two of the original private complaints as “the most expensive parking building in the entire country” as a result of overpricing. It has five floors of parking space on top of the basement parking, a roof deck and a total area of 31,928 square meters.
The Binays have denied any wrongdoing in the construction of the building, among other controversial city transactions under their leadership.
The Ombudsman said Binay, in his capacity as mayor, had approved the bids and awards committee resolutions, notices of awards, contracts and payments using unnumbered or undated disbursement vouchers and obligation requests despite irregularities.
In the malversation case, the Binays were accused of awarding the P11-million contract for the design of the car park to Mana Architecture and Interior Design Co. despite a lack of public bidding and “glaring flaws in the procurement process.”
In the graft cases, the Ombudsman noted a “simulated public bidding” for three contracts for the construction of the car park.
These were eventually awarded to the lone bidder, Hilmarc’s Construction Corp., in spite of deficiencies in required documents and the lack of accepted and approved plans and specifications, according to the Ombudsman.
The three contracts that went to Hilmarc’s amounted to P1.486 billion, based on the graft charges.
In February, the Ombudsman said it could only file cases against Binay after the expiration of his term as Vice President.
Under the law, an impeachable officer, while in office, cannot be the subject of a criminal indictment in court.
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