MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – In his years serving Makati City’s General Services Department (GSD), a former city official said none of the bids he handled were legitimate.
Former GSD head and city councilor Ernesto Aspillaga testified before the Senate Blue Ribbon sub-committee on Thursday, September 25, that every purchase request approved by then mayor, now Vice President Jejomar Binay was attached with a note indicating which supplier or company should win the bid.
Aspillaga said these notes were handwritten by Vice President Binay when he was Makati mayor, and also by his wife, Elenita, when she was mayor. He admitted, however, that he does not have any of the alleged hand-written notes.
He described the biddings as “bidding-biddingan” or rigged.
The former city official, who rose from the ranks, said that was the way things worked in the city under the Binays, corroborating the earlier testimony of another former Makati employee, Mario Hechanova, former vice-chairman of the city’s bids and awards committee.
Like Hechanova, Aspillaga testified that during that time, he too received amounts ranging from P70,000 to P500,000, allegedly from Vice President Binay, to ensure the successful bid of the anointed company.
Aspillaga, an engineer, started working in Makati in 1972, under the city’s Department of Engineering and Public Works. He was elected city councilor from 2004 to 2010. The subcommittee hearing is the 6th in a series probing the alleged overpriced Makati building.
The Vice President and his son, incumbent Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay Jr, are facing plunder raps over the building.
Although the building sparked the Senate probe, resource persons – former city officials, political foes, and former Binay allies – have detailed tales of the Binays’ alleged corruption in the city.
Prior to Aspillaga, an official from a construction contractor denied participating in the bid for the controversial building, contrary to documents from the city itself which were read out during the hearing.
“Ang totoo po, hindi ko po nakita ang binasa mo ngayon. Hindi ko po alam kung bakit kami nandiyan. Malinaw sa records namin na hindi kami nag–participate sa bidding,” J-Bros Chief Operation Officer Alejandro Tengco testified before the Senate panel.
(The truth is, I’ve never seen the document you’re reading now. I don’t know why we’re there. It’s clear in our records that we didn’t participate in the bidding.)
Tengco also denied placing a bid on another Makati project, the Makati Science High School Building. In the first place, Tengco said, J-Bros was not qualified to do so under the Procurement Law.
Another businessman, Marcial Lichauco Jr, testified before the Senate panel on September 11 that he found himself stuck inside a Makati City building elevator on his way to bid for the city’s rescue and emergency equipment – which Hechanova had cited in an earlier hearing as alleged proof of the bid rigging in the city under then mayor Binay.
Hechanova had earlier testified that the businessman was intentionally trapped in the elevator on orders of the Vice President, to let his chosen firm bag the contract.
At the Thursday hearing, Hechanova conceded that J-Bros’ signature in the documents may have been forged. Hechanova, who vice-chaired the city’s BAC after Aspillaga, said this was the way things worked in Makati.
In the case of the controversial building, eventual bid-winner Hilmarc’s Construction Corporation listed down their bid “competitors.” Hechanova allegedly then took care of the other two companies’ bid requirements.
Senator Alan Peter Cayetano raised the alarm over the resource persons’ allegations.
“Ang nakagugulat sa akin dito, hindi na naisali sila [J-Bros] (What’s surprising to me here is not that J-Bros was included) but that COA (Commission on Audit) did not check,” he said.
The Vice President’s spokesman for political affairs Cavite Governor Jonvic Remulla criticized Aspillaga.
“There were hundreds of bids conducted during the period cited by Mr Aspillaga yet he admitted he doesn’t have a copy of a single note. Obviously these are ‘imaginary notes,’” said Remulla in a statement, referring to the Binays’ handwritten notes alleged by the former Makati official.
Remulla alleged that Aspillaga was only after the immunity granted under the Witness Protection Program (WPP). “Why did he not reveal the existence of those ‘notes’ when he was being investigated by the Ombudsman for the same biddings he mentioned in his testimony, for which he is now facing several cases before the courts?” Remulla asked.
Senator Antonio Trillanes IV moved that the subcommittee recommend that Aspillaga be placed under the WPP, which the latter thanked the senator for.
Senator Aquilino Pimentel III, who chairs the subcommittee, said Aspillaga’s admission to the WPP would be the Justice Department’s discretion. Aspillaga, after all, has pending cases. – Rappler.com