Binay camp on ‘overpricing’: Why rely on pop-up experts?

Bea Cupin
The Vice President’s spokesman questions why Senator Trillanes ‘omitted’ the input of a Philippine Contractors Association representative during the inspection of the Makati building
OVERPRICED? A protester at Makati city condemns the allegedly overpriced Makati City Hall Building 2 on September 1, 2014. File photo by Joel Leporada/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – The camp of Vice Presiden Jejomar Binay took to task the assessment made by Senator Antonio Trillanes IV that Makati City Hall 2 was “not world class,” based on what they called “pop-up experts” whom he brought along to inspect the building on Monday.

In separate statements on Tuesday, September 2, spokespersons for the Binay camp  said a competent court and not witnesses who do guesswork will decide whether the new building and other procurements of the city government were overpriced, as alleged by critics.

Makati city government spokesman Lito Anzures said the “pop-up experts’” comments were off-tangent since the issue investigated by the Senate blue ribbon sub-committee – thus the ocular inspection by Trillanes – was whether the Makati City Hall Building 2 is overpriced or not. (READ: Mayor Binay concedes ‘possible’ Makati building overpriced)

“The experts did not say that the building was overpriced, which is the issue being investigated by the Senate,” said Anzures in a statement. (READ: COA: ‘Many questions’ on Makati building)

Senate probe

On Monday, Trillanes came with Senator Aquilino Pimentel III and construction experts to do an ocular of the controversial building. The senators were accompanied by journalists and greeted by Binay supporters during the inspection.

The building is the basis of a plunder complaint filed with the Ombudsman against Vice President Jejomar Binay and his son, incumbent Makati Mayor Junjun Binay.

The older Binay was the sitting Makati mayor when the construction of the building started. (READ: COA chief: No clearance for Makati building)

After plunder raps were filed before the Ombudsman, the Senate launched its own probe into the alleged overpriced edifice. (READ: Makati bizmen urged: Speak up on Binay ‘horror stories’)

The Binay camp has contested the necessity of the Senate, given that a complaint has already been filed before the Ombudsman. The political family has also insisted there was nothing amiss with the construction of the building since it was “world class” and thus cost more to build. (READ: Binay: Makati even ‘saved’ P200M from building

In the course of the Senate hearings, the Binays’ political foes have dragged in other issues as well, including the alleged overpricing of other government buildings and cakes the city gives to its senior citizens

The Vice President’s spokesman for political concerns, Cavite Governor Jonvic Remulla, likewise slammed the “hula-hula experts” (guesswork experts) Trillanes brought in during the inspection of the building.

“Without even seeing the as-built plans, blueprints, bill of materials, or mechanical and electrical plans, these so-called experts made a conclusion which can only be described as guesswork or hula-hula,” Remulla said.

'100% BINAY.' Supporters of the Binay family rally outside the Makati City Hall Building 2 during a Senate Blue Ribbon sub-committee ocular on September 1, 2014. File photo by Joel Leporada/Rappler

Other experts omitted?

In the statement, Remulla compared the building experts to Renato Bondal and former Makati Vice Mayor Ernesto Mercado, both of whom accused the Binays of corruption. Bondal said the city was buying birthday cakes at P1,000 a piece, a figure that he later admitted was only an estimated. 

Mercado, meanwhile admitted to earning from the construction of the building and hinted at the possibility of Vice President Binay getting his cut as well. When pressed for details, however, Mercado did not give any.

Remulla also questioned why the Senate did not air the opinion of a representative of the Philippine Contractors Association during the inspection. The Cavite governor said a PCA members would easily debunk the “biased” statements of the experts who were there.

Quoting PCA executive director Lito Madrasto, Remulla said the cost of building materials were at a high when the Makati City Hall Building 2 was being constructed.

“Senator Trillanes talked to [Madrasto] after the ocular and afterwards, he was nowhere in sight. We hope Trillanes did not intimidate the man, which he seems to be fond of doing,” said Remulla.

Remulla also insisted the courts would determine if the building was overpriced or not. The Senate is scheduled to hold another hearing on the allegedly overpriced building on Thursday, September 4. – Rappler.com

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Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.