MANILA, Philippines – Home Development Mutual Fund (Pag-IBIG) president and chief executive officer Darlene Berberabe on Thursday, January 22, denied the government-owned company was pressured into entering into a deal with a security agency allegedly owned by Vice President Jejomar Binay.
During the Senate Blue Ribbon subcommittee’s Thursday, January 22 probe into allegations of corruption against Binay, Berberabe clarified that Pag-IBIG had disqualified Omni Security Investigation and General Services Inc from a public bid for a multi-million deal for its National Capital Region offices because they were “one minute late.”
Instead, Berberabe said, Omni was hired to provide her close-in security when she stepped in 4 years ago. The lawyer said she took over the position at the height of the Senate probe into the Delfin Lee loan scam, making it necessary for her to hire close-in security.
She said she turned to Binay, since she trusted him, for recommendations. Binay recommended Omni security, the same agency that bagged over P1.3 billion in contracts with the Makati city government. Binay was mayor of Makati for over 20 years.
Berberabe said public bidding for the close-in security contract was deemed “inappropriate” because of the urgency and the relatively low cost of the deal – P400,000 for a period of 4 months. She also reasoned that under the government’s procurement law, public bidding may be waved in the event of “imminent danger.”
The lawyer explained that “in real life,” public biddings take over 4 months.
“In the strongest terms, your honors, I say this is the most unfair. We have been very vocal in our collective stance against corruption,” she said.
“Hindi po ako mapipilit ninuman na gumawa ng mali habang ako ay nasa serbisyo publiko (I will not be forced by anyone to do something wrong while I am in public service),” added the lawyer.
Conflict of interest?
President Benigno Aquino III appointed Berberabe in 2010 to head Pag-IBIG, upon the recommendation of Binay. Berberabe’s sister also happens to be married to Binay’s chief-of-staff.
Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, one of 3 senators leading the subcommittee probe, questioned Beberabe’s reasoning, saying public bids could only be waived in event of a natural calamity.
Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, meanwhile, noted that unlike Cayetano who spoke of Berberabe’s good reputation, he was “coming in as a skeptic” given Binay’s so-called “pattern” when appointing people to government posts.
“Yung mga taong nilalagay nila, yung kayang i-remote control (Binay appoints people he can control),” said Trillanes.
One of Omni’s listed owners is Hirine Lopez, wife of Tomas Lopez, a member of the Pag-IBIG Fund Board of Trustees. Senator Aquilino Pimentel III questioned why neither Berberabe nor Lopez raised alarm over the hiring of Omni, given its conflict of interest.
Berberabe said the Omni deal was prepared and signed by a department head and that she had only checked the company’s Securities and Exchange Commission General Information Sheet only recently.
From 4-month contracts, Omni has sinced been signed on as a “consultant” of Pag-IBIG. The hearing is ongoing as of posting. – Rappler.com