Senate blue ribbon report vs Binay submitted before plenary

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Senate blue ribbon subcommittee formally endorsed before the plenary its partial report recommending plunder charges against Vice President Jejomar Binay and other Makati city hall officials.

Subcommittee chairperson Aquilino Pimtenel III presented the 46-page partial report before the plenary on Monday, February 1.

At least 10 senators – or more than a majority of the 17-member Senate blue ribbon committee – earlier signed the report, calling on the Ombudsman to file plunder charges against Binay and his son, dismissed Makati mayor Jejomar Erwin “Junjun” Binay Jr, over the allegedly overpriced Makati city hall parking building II.

A total of 25 hearings have been conducted by the Senate blue ribbon subcommittee to investigate the alleged overpricing of two city infrastructure projects in Makati, where Binay was mayor for 21 years. (WATCH: Red flags in 'overpriced' Makati infra projects)

Senators also probed into the alleged irregular transactions entered into by the Home Development Fund (Pag-IBIG) and the Boy Scouts of the Philippines under Vice President Binay’s leadership.

Pimentel said on Monday that the subcommittee, after “careful scrutiny of the evidence on hand,” concluded that the Makati city hall parking building II is “clearly overpriced and the amount of the overprice is from a low of P1,124,137,306.70 to a high of P1,389,069,379.14.”

The senator said the subcommittee used the valuation, benchmarking against industry standard, comparison, bill of quantities, and opinion of experts approaches in its partial report to determine if the construction of the city hall building was overpriced.

“In this report, the subcommittee concluded that its investigation on the alleged overprice in the construction of Makati city hall II parking building has revealed the commission of the crime of plunder, committed through what it called a ‘grand conspiracy,’” said Pimentel.

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales has found probable cause to indict Binay and 22 other Makati city hall officials over the anomalies behind the construction project.

The Ombudsman has also dismissed and barred Junjun Binay, along with 19 others, from holding public office in a ruling in October 2015. 

The Anti-Money Laundering Council filed a civil forfeiture case against Binay and his son in December 2015 as well.

While the Senate subpanel is expected to complete its full report by this week, the Binay camp has repeatedly slammed the hearings as a mere “kangaroo court.”

The Vice President’s spokesperson for political affairs Rico Quicho said last week that the Senate probe “ended the same way it began – with half-truths, rehashed lies, and baseless allegations.” 

Stale’ report

Joey Salgado, Binay’s media affairs ahead, said on Tuesday afternoon that the Vice President’s camp remains unfazed by the partial report.

“After more than a year and 25 public hearings, the Senate blue ribbon subcommittee reported to the plenary its partial report. Again, a partial report that it already released to media last year. Panis na ang report na ito. Pero isinalang ni Senator Pimentel sa plenaryo dahil survey period ngayon (This report is already stale. Senator Pimentel presented it at the plenary just because its survey period right now),” Salgado said in a statement.

“It’s part of a chorus of attacks on the Vice President led by the Liberal Party candidate himself and his spokespersons at the Palace, namely Misters Lacierda and Quezon,” added Salgado, referring to LP standard-bearer Manuel Roxas II, Palace spokesman Edwin Lacierda, and Communications Undersecretary Manolo Quezon. 

Despite the string of corruption allegations, Binay has topped recent election surveys.

According to Salgado, the Senate blue ribbon subcommittee’s partial report “will be thrown out in its entirety” in a court of law “for relying on perjuries and hearsay from tainted witnesses.”

Binay’s media affairs head also said the report relied on “incorrect methods and erroneous conclusion.”

“All these methods, however, rely on CFA (construction floor area) to arrive at the Project Cost Per Square Meter – an approach that the Supreme Court has ruled unreliable and erroneous in determining overpricing. The comparison, said the Supreme Court, must be based on the actual price of the item purchased at the time the item is actually purchased,” said Salgado.

He said the report failed to mention that Department of Public Works and Highways Secretary Rogelio Singson testified before senators that a building’s price cannot be determined using the floor area per square meter. 

The volume of materials as indicated in the actual bill of quantities must be estimated, Salgado added.

“It just goes to show how farcical the whole proceeding has been,” he said.  Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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