Binay camp to Trillanes: Explain ‘overpriced’ consultants

MANILA, Philippines – The camp of Vice President Jejomar Binay challenged Senator Antonio Trillanes IV on Wednesday, August 19, to explain the hiring of “overpriced” consultants, including his brother.

According to a statement on Wednesday by lawyer Rico Quicho, Binay’s spokesperson for political affairs, Senate documents revealed that Trillanes hired 55 consultants and paid P7.5 million in fees, which is P4.46 million more than the P3.04 million allotted for hiring consultants.

Quicho also said that Trillanes hired his brother, Juan Antonio, as a consultant for P71,200 a month or about P427,000 from July to December 2014.

“Senator Trillanes should not be too onion-skinned if the people demand him to explain his exorbitant expense for his consultants,” said Quicho.

He added that Trillanes’ consultants failed to comply with the rules of the Commission on Audit (COA) when they did not submit their accomplishment reports and even their resumés to justify the fees paid to them.

“Surely a person like the senator's brother and other consultants who were paid P71,200 a month in fees would have solid credentials worthy of being mentioned in Google or LinkedIn but a cursory search yielded zero results,” Quicho said.

Binay’s spokesperson said that Trillanes has not shown enough transparency and accountability for his actions.

“Often, he hides from it. If the consultancy fees cannot be justified, then we cannot help but conclude his consultants were overpriced,” said Quicho.

“Senatori Trillanes must be reminded that his bullying is never a substitute to a proper reasoning.”

Budget for consultants

In May this year, COA sent a memorandum to Senate President Franklin Drilon ordering the Senate to explain the P231.88 milion spent on Senate consultants in 2014.

Supervising auditor Mario Lipano noted in the memo that several senators spent more than the allotted amount for consultants’ fees.

“Analysis of subsidiary ledger account consultancy services which mostly consist of expenses for consultancy services of different offices of senators reveals that there were several senators’ offices that exceed the budgetary allocations," said COA.

“Further review of the accounts, including the corresponding liquidation documents for the senators’ cash advances and the disbursement vouchers for the claims for consultancy services paid directly through check, disclosed that the reason for exceeding the budgetary allocation for the said account is due to hiring of many consultants wherein a Senator’s office hired more than 60 consultants and also of giving a consultants’ rate as high as P94,000 per month,” added the COA, which did not disclose any names in the report.

Trillanes defends consultants

In an interview with the ABS-CBN News Channel’s (ANC) Headstart on Wednesday, August 19, Trillanes admitted that his brother is one of his consultants but denied that his sibling is receiving an unusually high salary.

“He is earning P60,000 net, which is not exorbitant. It’s not profligacy in any way,” he told ANC.

“And in fact, in the Senate, some senators have their brother or sister as chief-of-staff. There’s really nothing wrong with that because it’s a position of trust,” he added.

During the televised interview, Trillanes defended the P18 million he spent for consultancy in 2014, the highest in the Senate. This year, the senator has over 40 consultants.

Trillanes said his strength lies in intelligence gathering, so he optimizes the hiring of consultants. He said they helped him author 17 bills and present witnesses during past Senate investigations.

“Everybody is receiving a monthly consultancy fee. I have a security analyst, financial analyst, legal consultants and all practically other aspects of governance that can help me. There are also area consultants, meaning in their particular area, they are the sounding board, which is very important in legislation because we need to be grounded. For example, the K-12 program – that's where I found out not all areas in the country are in favor of K-12 program," said Trillanes.

He believes raising the matter concerning his consultants is “quite petty and trivial” and is a “non-issue,” because he said the COA report which Quicho mentioned “didn’t even cite any irregularity at all.”

Trillanes thinks it is “a hatchet job just to tarnish the messenger or the main inquisitor in this investigation according to the Binay camp.”

In the same interview, the senator claimed that 45% of the senior citizens registered for Makati City’s programs for the elderly are “ghost” beneficiaries. VP Binay was mayor of Makati for 21 years. (READ: Trillanes: Makati has ‘ghost’ senior citizens)

Trillanes plans to expose his findings during the Senate blue ribbon subcommittee’s hearing on the corruption allegations against the Binay family on Thursday, August 20, a year after the first Senate hearing on the accusations was held. – Rappler.com