MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) – Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales has ordered the dismissal of suspended Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin "Junjun" Binay Jr over the alleged overpricing of the Makati City Hall Parking Building II.
In ordering Binay's dismissal from service and perpetual disqualification from public office on Friday, October 9, Morales said in a statement that the "strong evidence" presented during administrative adjudication "remained unrebutted."
She said that there were irregularities in the design and architecture in several phases of the said city infrastructure project worth P2.28 billion, undertaken from 2007 to 2013.
The Ombudsman's decision recommends that Binay, who is expected to file his certificate of candidacy for Makati mayor next week, be barred from holding public office.
The Ombudsman also ordered the dismissal of 19 other Makati officials:
Morales said that while Binay may file an appeal, the decision is "immediately executory."
Binay is also currently serving a 6-month preventive suspension order from the Ombudsman for the alleged overpricing of the Makati Science High School building.
'Binay intentionally closed his eyes to irregularities'
In a 103-page joint decision on 6 docketed complaints, the Ombudsman said that "flagrant anomalies" were found to have been committed by Binay and the other city officials in the design and construction of the Makati city hall parking building II's 6 phases. (WATCH: Red flags in 'overpriced' Makati infra projects)
It said that the services of Mana Architecture and Interior Design Company (MANA) were engaged without the benefit of public bidding in phase 1.
"The documents established badges of fraud committed by Binay, Jr. et.al. in manipulating the procurement to ensure the award of the contract to MANA; processing and approving a series of four (4) payments totaling to P11.97 million despite the incomplete submission of deliverables such as design plans, working drawings, and technical specifications," it said.
The Ombudsman said procurement violations were committed and there were no invitations to bid, contrary to Republic Act No 9184, or the Government Procurement Reform Act.
"A certified true copy of the publication obtained from the National Library showed that no advertisement for the invitations to bid was made as attested to by the publisher," it said.
The Ombudsman said there was "undue haste" in awarding the contract – the Makati Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) supposedly took just 11 days to complete the procurement process for the big infrastructure project.
It cited the Commission on Audit Fraud Audit Office’s Initial Evaluation Report which said that “the negotiated procurement adopted by the BAC was improper.”
The construction projects were ultimately awarded to Hilmarc’s Construction Corporation despite the lack of the required publication of the invitations to bid. It was also the lone bidder in 4 out of the 6 phases.
Moreover, the Ombudsman said that the construction project began "even in the absence of approved design standards, contract plans, agency cost estimates, detailed engineering and programs of work."
The joint decision also explained that there was supposed collusion among city officials and Hilmarc’s to manipulate the outcome of the 5 “public biddings” to ensure that Hilmarc’s would be the winning bidder.
Morales said Binay had the obligation to ensure that the contracts he was entering into were "fair, reasonable and advantageous to the government." Documents indicate that Binay approved the BAC resolutions, notices of awards, contracts and payments.
"By so acting, Binay intentionally closed his eyes to the irregularities by failing to observe utmost diligence," the Ombudsman added.
'Dismissal by press release, suspicious timing'
The Binay camp slammed the Ombudsman's decision as "dismissal by press release."
"Bistado na ang Ombudsman. Minadali nito ang order dahil sa Lunes ay magsisimula na ang filing ng CoCs (certificates of candidacy) para sa 2016 election. Ni wala pang kopya ng order na natanggap si Mayor. Dismissal by press release ang ginawa ng Ombudsman," vice presidential spokesperson Joey Salgado said in a statement.
(The Ombudsman has been exposed. It rushed this order because the filing of CoCs for the 2016 elections starts on Monday. The mayor has not even received a copy of the order. What the Ombudsman did was a dismissal by press release.)
Salgado said that Binay will face the legal challenge and will elevate it to court "to stop the administration's abuses and underhanded moves" against him.
In an interview on ANC, Binay's lawyer, Claro Certeza, also questioned what he called the "suspicious" timing of the Ombudsman's decision, as it comes just days from the start of the filing of COCs.
"We have to look at the bigger picture here. Look at the timing when the resolution is issued. It's about the time when parties are supposed to be filing their COC, then they issue such a resolution," Certeza said.
"You will agree with me that something like this will negatively impact both the Vice President and Mayor Junjun insofar as their aspirations to be elected are concerned," he added.
Vice President Jejomar Binay, who is also hounded by corruption allegations when he was Makati mayor, is seeking the presidency.
Certeza said that they were surprised by the Ombudsman's resolution. "We have already presented all evidences that we have to the Ombudsman, that's why we are surprised about this finding that they made."
The next step, he said, is to get a copy of the resolution, and once he has studied it, he will file an appeal with the Court of Appeals. The lawyer said, however, that "the problem here is that this decision is immediately executory."
"So I guess this is really their strategy, to see to it that at least with respect to the certification of candidacy, Mayor Binay will be really hard-pressed for time to seek any legal relief. The timing is very suspicious," he said.
Malacañang said in a statement that it respects the decision of the Office of the Ombudsman, "being an independent office from the Executive," and expects all other parties to do the same.
"In undertaking its constitutionally-mandated role, it is incumbent on all parties to abide by the decision and to avail of the legal remedies provided under law," said Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte. – Rappler.com