Congressman to VP Binay: Answer questions on overpricing
MANILA, Philippines – Instead of “resorting to histrionics,” Vice President Jejomar Binay should provide direct answers to allegations that he received kickbacks from an overpriced building project in Makati when he was mayor.
This was the call made by Akbayan Representative Walden Bello a day after the Vice President spoke to the media on Wednesday, August 27, to answer accusations that the Makati City Hall Building 2 – branded by critics as the “parking building” – was bidded out during his term was overpriced by P2 billion ($45.80 million).
“I initially thought that the overpriced parking building accusation was simply politics leading up to 2016. However, as I looked more into the issue, I felt that there were serious concerns that needed to be addressed by the Vice President,” Bello said on Thursday, August 28.
“Unfortunately, instead of answering the allegations in the Senate blue ribbon [committee], the Vice President and his children have resorted to histrionics,” said Bello, an ally of President Benigno Aquino III.
Binay has so far skipped the Senate probe, which he described as a “badly written soap opera,” but he has been represented by his children, who currently hold different posts in government.
His son, incumbent Makati Mayor Junjun Binay, attended the first committee hearing and fielded questions from senators. The Vice President’s daughter, Senator Nancy Binay, decided to excuse herself from the proceedings to avoid being accused of “lawyering” for her relatives. During the 2nd hearing, a teary-eyed Makati Representative Abigail Binay showed up to “confront” for dragging her name into the controversy.
Bello's remarks echoed the comments of Cayetano and Senator Antonio Trillanes IV that Binay’s press briefing on Wednesday failed to justify the price of the Makati building.
Binay and his son are also facing a plunder complaint before the Ombudsman over the project.
During the first hearing, Mayor Binay explained that the price of the building increased from its original price because it incorporated “green” features and was designed to be “world class.” Vice President Binay, meanwhile, later on denied it was overpriced and claimed Makati even saved P200 million from the project.
But Bello, a close ally of President Benigno Aquino III, said the blue ribbon probe “showed the weakness of the Binay camp's response.”
“Two things have been made clear during the blue ribbon hearing: first, the building is far from ‘world class’ and ‘green,’ so there is no justification for the building costing thrice as much per square meter as the industry standard. Second, far from clearing Makati, [Commission on Audit] Chairperson Grace Pullido-Tan said that Makati’s budgeting and bids and awards process raised red flags,” Bello said.
Bello said Binay should answer these questions:
- What truth is there about the allegation that the parking building ended up being overpriced by over thrice its actual cost? What led to this unreasonable spike in the cost of the project?
- Did Vice President Binay receive kickbacks as alleged by then Vice Mayor Ernesto Mercado?
- Why was the bidding process for the parking building unusually short, yet the actual construction took 5 phases to complete?
Binay said the Senate failed to conduct a canvass of materials and supplies to prove accusations that the building was overpriced.
One of the red flags cited in a Commission on Audit report on the project was the the length of the bidding process on the Makati building, which took only two and a half months instead of the usual 6 months for a project of that size.
Binay said it is the “quality” and not the “quantity of time” that matters. – Rappler.com