MANILA, Philippines – Vice President Jejomar Binay and his son, suspended Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin “Junjun” Binay Jr, are facing yet another plunder complaint filed by a political rival.
Lawyer Renato Bondal filed the plunder complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman on Tuesday, September 1, involving the alleged questionable deal between the University of Makati (UMak) and the Systems Technology Institute (STI). (READ: Critic: Binay ‘earned’ from Makati nursing school)
The other respondents in the complaint are UMak president Tomas Lopez, STI president Monico Jacob, businessman Eusebio Tangco, Annabelle Bautista of STI, and ophthalmologist Jack Arroyo Jr.
Bondal accused the respondents of plunder, malversation of public funds, graft, and violation of Republic Act No. 9784 or the Government Procurement Reform Act.
Bondal previously branded as “illegal and anomalous” the 2003 joint venture agreement between the Vice President, who was Makati mayor at the time, and STI to set up the UMak College of Nursing. Binay represented UMak in the joint venture agreement as chairman of the university’s Board of Regents.
In his complaint, Bondal accused the respondents of receiving around P500 million in kickbacks from the tuition and professional fees collected from the UMak College of Nursing.
In an interview with reporters on Tuesday, Bondal alleged that the Philippine Health Educators Incorporated, created by the Makati city government and STI to manage the nursing school, became a venue for corruption among the complaint respondents.
“When you look at financials and performance, reasons behind establishing will be clear that it was established to take money out of the school. It was not necessary,” the lawyer said.
Bondal added that Mayor Binay, who is serving a 6-month preventive suspension order over the alleged overpricing of the Makati Science High School building, was included among the respondents because he supposedly “tolerated” the UMak-STI joint venture agreement.
Bondal had also filed a complaint before the Ombudsman against Mayor Binay and his sister, Makati Representative Abigail Binay, for the congresswoman’s alleged misuse of her Priority Development Assistance Fund.
The Vice President’s spokesman, Joey Salgado, dismissed Bondal’s latest plunder complaint as nothing more than rehashed, baseless allegations.
“Ang sinampa ni Mr Bondal ay replay lang ng kanyang lumang PowerPoint presentation sa Senado. Gaya ng iba pang mga sinabi ni Mr Bondal, ito ay napatunayan nang walang basehan at hula-hula lang,” he said in a statement sent to reporters on Tuesday.
(What Mr Bondal filed is just a replay of his old PowerPoint presentation in the Senate. Like Mr Bondal’s previous statements, this has been proven to be baseless and mere speculation.)
Salgado said the UMak-STI joint venture agreement was created through a series of ordinances approved by the Makati city council when the Vice President was still mayor.
“Ex-Vice Mayor [Ernesto] Mercado was the presiding officer. Why was Mayor Junjun Binay included when he was not the mayor at the time of the project? And why was Mercado not included when he was the one who shepherded the said city ordinances? Because this is selective prosecution” said Salgado.
He was referring to Mercado, another political rival of the Vice President who has alleged corruption in the Makati city government.
According to Salgado, the Binay camp had already answered the accusations thrown at the Vice President during the ongoing Senate investigation on corruption allegations against the Binays.
Salgado listed the following reasons:
- VP Binay and other city government officials are original shareholders because they represent the equity holdings of the city, not in their personal capacities. The shares are nominal shares of 1%
- Only non-Makati residents pay higher fees at the UMak College of Nursing. Makati residents who pass the academic qualifications are full scholars; those who don’t pay the full tuition, which is below the median among NCR nursing school tuition fees
- There is no evidence to back the allegation that the private persons involved in the UMak-STI joint venture agreement are dummies of the Vice President
- The UMak College of Nursing Joint Venture Project is a “model” Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) program which generated at least P262 million for Makati City
Salgado added that the deal has earned P42 million in dividends and around P70 million in rental, utilities, and general education faculty fees, providing jobs for Makati residents.
“If the Ombudsman were only fair and impartial, these complaints would immediately be dismissed. But the Ombudsman is part of the conspiracy against the Vice President and his family so we will not be surprised if sooner rather than later, it will again suspend Mayor Junjun Binay despite the absence of concrete factual basis,” he said. (READ: ‘Guilt strong’ vs Junjun Binay – Ombudsman)
Salgado also challenged the critics of the Vice President to face them in court. – Mara Cepeda/Rappler.com