MANILA, Philippines – “Luging, luging, luging, lugi ang Boy Scout!” (The Boy Scouts were so shortchanged!)
More senators turned up at the Senate hearing on the deal between the Boy Scouts of the Philippines (BSP) and property developer Alphaland, lamenting how the organization’s 2.2 million members were supposedly shortchanged in almost every aspect of the agreement. (READ: Did Binay use Boy Scout funds for 2010 bid?)
Besides the usual trio heading the investigation into alleged anomalies of Vice President Jejomar Binay, senators Juan Edgardo Angara, Sergio Osmeña III, and Ferdinand Marcos Jr joined the inquiry on Wednesday, February 18. Senators Aquilino Pimentel III, Alan Peter Cayetano, and Antonio Trillanes IV led the probe.
In a rare occasion, Angara was visibly peeved as he asked BSP senior vice president Wendel Avisado why the Boy Scouts merely relied on Alphaland for the valuation of the one-hectare prime property that it owned in Malugay Street corner Ayala Avenue Extension in Makati. The land was valued at P1 billion when the deal was signed in 2008.
“So you do not have your own valuation? You just accepted what Alphaland told you? You owe that to the boy scouts. You might be forgetting your relationship with them but you need to make sure you get the best deal,” Angara said.
When Avisado said the BSP used the independent appraisers of Alphaland, Angara responded: “Yes, but we know appraisers tend to favor whoever is paying them.”
Osmeña also asked Avisado why the BSP did not reappraise the value of the land when it amended its agreement with Alphaland, and sold the land to the company in June 2011. Avisado admitted to Osmeña that the BSP does not have a financial adviser, except for one officer with a background in financial deals.
Cayetano said the BSP should have insisted on a higher share than the 15% it got because the land’s value went up after the Makati City government reclassified its floor area ratio from 8 to 12. Under the deal, Alphaland takes the other 85% as it developed the Alphaland Makati Place, a residential and leisure complex.
“In the first deal, you owned the land. Alphaland amended the agreement because under the regulations of our country, you cannot sell condo units if you do not own the land. When you changed the agreement and gave them the land, you could have demanded more, maybe 30% and they will give it because they can’t make the money they are making now if you do not give them everything,” Cayetano said.
The senator then borrowed the line of Binay’s ally-turned-whistleblower former Makati Vice Mayor Ernesto Mercado. “You gave them everything. Prinito sa sariling mantika ang BSP (You fried the BSP in its own fat),” Cayetano said.
Mercado said it was Binay as BSP president who authorized the Boy Scouts’ board to sell the land to Alphaland. Alphaland’s president, Mario Oreta, is a friend of Binay, and a top campaign contributor to the 2013 election bid of the Vice President’s daughter, Senator Nancy Binay.
Avisado is also Binay’s colleague at the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC), where he is listed as deputy secretary general for administrative, finance and knowledge management.
In its 15th hearing on Binay, the Senate investigated Mercado’s allegation that 5% of the proceeds from the BSP-Alphaland deal was hidden in Oreta’s Noble Care Management Corporation and later used to fund Binay’s 2010 vice presidential campaign. (READ: Binay ally ‘making excuses,’ won’t open bank accounts)
The Vice President refuses to attend the hearings and insists that he will only respond to allegations in court. He brands the investigation as a tool of his political rivals to destroy his 2016 presidential ambitions. (READ: Boy Scouts: No truth to kickback claims vs Binay, and Binay: ‘Gambling’ Mercado likely took BSP’s P200M)
No cash for BSP, no bidding
Senators also asked Oreta and Avisado why 7 years after the original deal, the BSP still has not specified which particular condo units in Alphaland Makati Place it would get its 15% share from.
Osmeña said this was normally done in the project’s contract.
“For goodness’ sake, this is something you can finish in one or two weeks,” he told Oreta.
Avisado maintained that the BSP based its 15% share on the gross floor area, and it already occupies the 3rd floor of the development’s Podium building.
“It is up to the [BSP] board to come up with the master development plan on how to utilize the entire 3rd floor but we are already making money,” said the BSP vice president.
Trillanes grilled Avisado on the P600,000 in monthly rent Alphaland officials said they paid to the BSP. The senator got Avisado to admit that the payment retroactively covered January to December 2014, as the check was only made in January 2015.
Cayetano agreed with Trillanes that the payment seemed like an afterthought as the Senate then already planned to investigate the deal.
“So the check was only paid on January 23, 2015, one day after our hearing? If we did not hold a hearing, you would not ask Alphaland to pay,” Cayetano said.
Cayetano added that even if the contract between BSP and Alphaland underwent several changes through the years, no public bidding was done.
The Supreme Court ruled in 2011 that the BSP is not a private entity but “a public corporation or government instrumentality.”
No term limits for Binay?
Angara also raised a question that emerged in the wake of the deal’s exposure: how is Binay able to remain as BSP national president for nearly two decades? Binay led the BSP from 1998 to 2000, and again in 2001 up to now.
The senator said that for other government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs), the President can change the head of the agency.
Avisado replied that the BSP is “sui generis” or a class of its own.
“The BSP is a voluntary organization so you don’t have to be appointed. You have to be elected,” he said. “Every year, we elect BSP officers. Every member can run for election. But VP Binay is still our president because we trust him to lead us.”
Cayetano said all the weaknesses of the BSP-Alphaland deal only led to one conclusion: “Either Vice President Binay knew this and he is corrupt, or he does not know and he is incompetent.” – Rappler.com