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MANILA, Philippines (Updated) – Three weeks after appearing before a Senate panel empty handed, former Iloilo provincial administrator Manuel Mejorada returned to the Senate to submit what he believed to be the “best evidence” that the Iloilo Convention Center (ICC) is overpriced.
Senate President Franklin Drilon, whom Mejorada accused to be behind the alleged overprice, called Mejorada “a dud.”
Mejorada submitted on Wednesday, December 3, the Deed of Donation covering the parcel of land donated by Megaworld to the Department of Tourism (DOT) for the construction of the ICC, along with a 16-page memorandum.
He sent reporters a copy of the document that states that Megaworld, “upon the representation of Senator Franklin Drilon,” is donating a 17,371 square-meter lot to the DOT under several conditions, including the commitment of the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA) to provide P200 million to construct the convention center.
“The agreement to build the Iloilo Convention Center (ICC) between Megaworld Corporation and the Department of Tourism had pegged its cost at only P200 million, and the best evidence of overpricing is the contract itself,” Mejorada said in a statement.
The ICC project, which has yet to be completed, is projected to cost P747 million. The contract supposedly pegging the project cost at only P200 million, he said, is a proof of “overprice.”
TIEZA provided the initial fund of P200 million, while the rest of came from the budget of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).
In an interview, Drilon explained that the P200 million only covers the contribution of TIEZA to the project. “That is not the total cost of the building. Nothing in the Deed of Donation that says that that is the total cost of the building. Iyon ba ay bibigyan pa natin ng pansin? He’s a dud,” Drilon said.
Mejorada also claimed that Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr had no authority to sign the deed of donation. He alleged that Jimenez connived with Drilon to enter the joint venture with Megaworld to violate the Build-Operate-Transfer law, among others.
“Because of this, the contract is deemed invalid and not binding on the government,” Mejorada said.
Mejorada earlier filed before the Office of the Ombudsman plunder charges against Drilon, Jimenez, and Public Works Secretary Singson, and several other officials over the alleged overprice of the ICC.
He appeared at the first hearing of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee on the ICC on November 13 but admitted then that he had no evidence to prove his allegation that the project is overpriced. Mejorada insisted, however, that the project offered “opportunities for corruption.”
Drilon had countered that the government “gained” from the project, since the land was donated by Megaworld. (READ: Overpriced? Gov’t gained P521M from Iloilo building – Drilon)
Jimenez and Singson have denied the allegations. – Rappler.com