‘Makati Science HS building also overpriced, chop-chop’

Bea Cupin
‘Makati Science HS building also overpriced, chop-chop’

Mark Fredesjed R. Cristino

Whistleblowers point to another alleged overpriced building project in Makati City

MANILA, Philippines – The controversial Makati City Hall Building 2 isn’t the only alleged overpriced building in Makati City, an ally-turned-rival of  Vice President Jejomar Binay told a Senate panel on Thursday, November 6.

At the Blue Ribbon subcommittee hearing on the controversial Makati building, lawyer Renato Bondal claimed that the 10-storey Makati Science High School building was also overpriced by around P862 million ($19.11 million*).

Bondal is one of the complainants in a plunder case against the Vice President and son Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay Jr for the alleged overpriced Makati City Hall Building 2, the subject of an ongoing Senate probe.

Speaking before the subcommittee, Bondal said the P1.333-billion ($29.59 million) building should have cost only P470 million ($10.43 million), citing the industry average based on the Davis Landon Shea Handbook 2013. The contractor of the high school building was Hilmarc’s Construction Corporation, the same contractor for the City Hall Building 2. 

Bondal alleged that the high school building, which he called the “most expensive high school building in the country,” followed the same “modus” as the City Hall Building 2. The two buildings were bidded out on the same day. 

Based on documents, the construction of the high school building also took several phases, similar to the City Hall Building 2. “This was likely done because if you bid the phases together, the ‘A-B-C’ (phases) will seem costly,” explained Bondal. 

‘Chop-chop’

Because of this phased construction, the lawyer had described the bidding of the City Hall Building 2 as “chop-chop” or broken in parts, a term which may apply to the high school building, based on the same description.

Bondal said each classroom in the building cost around P24.6 million ($546,570). 

Government Procurement Policy Board executive director Dennis Santiago said that although “phasing” is allowed under the law, “artificial phasing” is not allowed. “Artificial bidding” happens when phasing is implemented even if the budget is ready, or if a project is split into bids to “bring down” ceiling prices. 

Santiago earlier told the Senate that although the country has good procurement laws, it’s the implementation that is left wanting. 

Another “whistleblower” in the probe, former Bids and Awards Committee vice-chairman Mario Hechanova alleged that bid rigging was the norm in the city. The Makati Science High School was allegedly no different – of 6 bidders, at least 2 did not make actual bids. 

Architect Jose Francisco Aquino, one of the supposed bidders for the High School building, said he never placed a bid. Another supposed bidder, J-Bros Chief Operation Officer Alejandro Tengco, also told the subcommittee through a letter that he did not place a bid on the building as well.

Hechanova admitted the two were added to the list without their permission. Quizzed by Senator Aquilino Pimentel III on how they got the names of the two companies, Hechanova said they got it from city architects with contacts in the industry. 

The former Makati official added that it did not matter if they knew the company representative’s signature or not – they signed “bid documents” anyway.   

In previous interviews, Senator Antonio Trillanes IV said the subcommittee would discuss at least 5 other supposedly “overpriced” Makati buildings, including the high school building.

Binay was invited by the Blue Ribbon “mother committee” to the November 6 hearing but he opted instead to fly to Cebu. Binay and his allies have dismissed the subcommittee as a “kangaroo court” that is “abusing its powers.” (READ: Binay blames Cayetano, Trillanes for Senate no-show– Rappler.com

*$1 = P45

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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.