Mercado testifies in a Binay trial for the first time

MANILA, Philippines - Former Makati Vice Mayor Ernesto Mercado on Wednesday, March 29, took the witness stand for the first time in a Binay trial.

Prosecution presented Mercado as a witness in the ongoing Sandiganbayan trial of former Makati City mayor Elenita Binay over graft charges in connection with the alleged anomalous purchase of partitions and connector brackets for the then new city hall. The contract worth P72 million is allegedly overpriced by over P21 million.

Mercado said he is prepared to see this case to its end, and is willing to testify in other Binay cases if called. "Tuloy tuloy lang...dati nang hindi ako umatras, inalis ko na 'yung atras ng kotse ko kaya puro abante na lang," Mercado told reporters after the hearing. (READ: Makati corruption witness: Who is Ernesto Mercado?)

COA report

Mercado was initially barred by the anti-graft court's fifth division from testifying in the case, saying then that the prosecution failed to establish his relevance in it.

The dispute revolves around a Commission on Audit (COA) report that shows irregularity in the purchase. However, when the case was filed, the prosecution was only able to present photocopies of the audit report.

Former COA Commissioner Heidi Mendoza would later present the original document and said it was Mercado who personally handed it to her.

The Sandiganbayan permitted Mercado to testify, but only on the issue of how he got his hands on the original report. To testify on the content of the report and other issues would need a separate permission from the court.

The report, Mercado said, covered the years 1999 to 2002. Mrs Binay was mayor of Makati from 1998 to 2001. In 2002,  former Mayor Jejomar Binay took over and had Mercado as his vice mayor.

During the hearing, Mercado said that in 2002, Jejomar Binay gave him the COA report and asked him to huddle with former city administrator Nicanor Santiago and lawyers because the report might "end up in a case."

Mercado said Santiago kept the original copy until 2014 when Santiago supposedly told him to hand over the report to former Commissioner Mendoza.

When Santiago died, Mercado said his conscience haunted him and that's why he went to Mendoza's office in 2014 and gave her the original. (READ: Why Mercado surfaced to turn against Binay)

FIRST TIME. Despite an earlier ruling barring him from testifying in Elenita Binay's graft case involving alleged overpriced office fixtures, the ally-turned-foe of the Binays Ernesto Mercado takes the witness stand on March 29, 2017. Photo by Rappler

FIRST TIME. Despite an earlier ruling barring him from testifying in Elenita Binay's graft case involving alleged overpriced office fixtures, the ally-turned-foe of the Binays Ernesto Mercado takes the witness stand on March 29, 2017.

Photo by Rappler

Elenita's cases

Mrs Binay is also facing other charges involving alleged irregularities in Makati City's procurement of hospital beds worth P36.43 million and sterilizers worth P8.83 million for the Ospital ng Makati during her term as mayor. Other charges of corruption have since been dropped by the Sandiganbayan.

Meanwhile, the anti-graft court's third division granted Mrs Binay's motion to travel to Osaka, Japan from April 1 to 8 for a vacation.

The court required Mrs Binay to post a P420,000 travel bond.

In its grant of the travel motion, the court noted that Mrs Binay had always "faithfully complied" with the conditions of the court in previous times that she was allowed to travel abroad. – Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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