MANILA, Philippines – “Sa Makati, de-kalidad lahat ang ginagawa namin dito (In Makati, everything we do is of high quality).”
This is how Vice President Jejomar Binay described the allegedly overpriced building now subject of a P1.255 billion ($29 million) plunder case against him and his son and political heir, Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin “Junjun” Binay Jr.
Binay defended the construction of the building, which began while he was Makati mayor in 2007, even as he admitted that he does not have the details such as the price of the property.
Instead, Binay compared the building allegedly worth P1.56 billion ($36.05 million) with the construction of a house and the printing of T-shirts.
“May bahay na gawang kahoy, may bahay na gawang konkreto. ‘Di magkakapareho ang halaga noon. Ganoon din ang gusali. At ang gusali, kahit sa gobyerno, may tinatawag na variations, pagbabago ng gagastusin kasi habang kino-construct mo minsan makikita mo ang lupa malambot, etc. So magkakaroon ka ng variations doon. Magdadagdag ka ng gastos doon,” Binay told reporters after a speech in Makati on Wednesday, July 23.
(There are houses made of wood, those made of concrete. Those would not have the same price. The same goes for buildings. And a building, even in government, has what we call variations, changes in expenses while you construct it because you see for example the soil is soft, etc. So there will be variations and additional cost.)
He added, “There are T-shirts in small, medium and large. Those have different prices because some are colored. The price will change if you add designs. The same goes for buildings. In Makati, we only make high-quality structures like schools and hospitals. Our hospitals are the best ones supported by local governments.”
Asked if he was saying that the building was just expensive but not overpriced, he said, “I can’t see how it can be viewed as expensive. That makes the difference between overpriced and expensive.”
The Vice President spoke a day after lawyers and political opponents filed a plunder case against him and his son before the Ombudsman for what was supposedly “the most expensive parking building in the country.” Binay was mayor of the country’s financial center for 21 years, succeeded by his son in 2010.
Binay questioned the complainants’ use of figures from the National Statistics Office (NSO) to claim that the building was priced 6 times higher than what should be the actual cost of P245.6 million ($5.67 million).
“The Supreme Court said this overpricing, it cannot be determined by the NSO. You have to ask around, go out and compare prices.”
Yet when asked for his basis for determining the final price of the building, Binay cited the statement of his son that the structure has yet to go through a final Commission on Audit (COA) investigation. “They even preempted the COA. The COA has yet to finish its report. Their complaint came too early.”
The complainants though also included the COA auditor of the city government in the case.
City office, not just parking building
Father and son clarified that the building is not just for parking but is used as an office of the Makati City Hall.
“You have to factor in so many things: cost of construction. There is a building management system, elevators, aircon because there are offices there, there are people working inside. This is not just a parking building,” the younger Binay said.
In a statement, Makati City Administrator Eleno Mendoza Jr said the 12-storey building consists of 5 floors of parking spaces and 6 floors of office spaces.
Calling it a “green building with its green architectural design,” Mendoza said the city government wanted “to ensure the strength and stability of the building, which stands on an area with soil type classified as ‘soft soil,’ board piles and steel sheet piling were used for its foundation. It also has granite tile flooring, centralized airconditioning, two elevators, conference rooms and mini-function halls, and other modern amenities.”
The administrator said the building houses offices like the Makati Action Center, Makati Anti-Drug Abuse Council Office, Office of Senior Citizens Affairs, Information and Community Relations Department, Department of Environmental Services, Museum and Cultural Affairs Office, Tourism Office, and Redemption Center of the Public Safety Department.
Mayor Binay said this showed that the complainants “simplified” the issue. He and his father said the construction went through bidding and the proper process but could not give details and the documents yet as of press time.
The mayor said, “What they are saying that this only costs P7,000 ($161.75) per square meter, that is just for low-cost housing. You cannot build something like this if we do not allocate the proper amount. It’s impossible to make this building spending only P7,000 per square meter. There is no ghost project. You can go to check the building.”
Citing NSO statistics, the complainants said the building only cost P7,691 per square meter but the price soared to P48,859 ($1,128) per square meter.
‘National figure behind complaint’
In the interview and in a speech before the Financial Executives of the Philippines (FINEX) and the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP), Vice President Binay stressed that the complaint was all politics.
“We have been informed that this time around, our local opponents have been provided with the needed resources, financial and otherwise, by certain national interest groups, particularly a group of lawyers closely identified with a national personality,” the elder Binay said.
Asked if he was referring to a politician from a city near Makati, Binay said, “Nevermind. They know who they are.”
Binay said the motive of his opponents was to make him believe that Malacañang was behind the case to draw attention away from President Benigno Aquino III’s impeachment complaints. Yet he said he will not think ill of the President and fall for the trap to make them fight.
The leading candidate for the 2016 presidential polls laughed when speculating on the goal of the complaint.
“Lumabas ang aking 41% [sa survey], dumagdag pa ako 40 to 41%. Ang trust rating ko, performance rating ko, ako ang pinakamaatas among government officials. O eto na!”
(My survey score came out as 41%, this was even higher from the 40%. My trust rating, performance rating is the highest for any government official. So here this comes!)
Echoing a quip of his ally Senator Jinggoy Esrada, Binay even joked while pointing to his son, “Ito po si Junjun Binay, kakosa ko!” (This is Junjun Binay, my fellow inmate!) – Rappler.com
*$1 = P43.3