Complainants: Binay building overpriced by higher amount

MANILA, Philippines – Complainants against Vice President Jejomar Binay and his son, Makati Mayor Erwin Jejomar Binay Jr, filed a supplemental complaint with the Ombudsman on Monday, August 18, to cite a higher amount by which a Makati government building was allegedly overpriced.

In a 9-page supplemental complaint,  Renato Bondal and Nicolas "Ching" Enciso VI cited a Commission on Audit (COA) memorandum showing 8 ordinances passed by the Makati city council allocating a total of P2.71 billion ($62 million)* for the construction of the disputed building.

Again comparing the new figure with data from the National Statistics Office (NSO) – a method that Mayor Binay have disputed – Bondal and Enciso said the building's construction was overpriced by at least P1.9 billion ($43 million*).

This is higher than what was cited in their initial complaint, which said the final contract price for the parking building was pegged at P1.56 billion ($35 million). The building, they said, was "even more scandalously overpriced" than they initially thought.

The building's construction covered the years 2007 to 2013, which included the terms of two Binays as the city's chief executive.

The senior Binay was Makati mayor from 2007 to 2010, while his son and co-accused is the incumbent.

New evidence prepared by co-accused

The complainants are now using as evidence a memorandum prepared by COA supervising auditor Cecilia Caga-anan. The document was supposedly a report submitted to Caga-anan's superiors.

Bondal and Enciso claim the document "indubitably provides the ammunition" to their charges.

Ironically, Caga-anan is a co-accused in the series of charges against the Binays over the construction of the building. These include charges for plunder, graft, and violation of the procurement law.

No single contractor

Using the same document as evidence, Bondal and Enciso revealed that the construction for the subject Makati building was bid out 5 times to different contractors.

This, they said, was an "anomaly" under the Republic Act 9184 or the Government Procurement Act.

They argued that the building should have been bid out as a single construction project instead of chopped up into 5 phases.

"The splitting of the contract into 5 parts is precisely what RA 9184 sought to prohibit, but the Binays, in their exercise of the Makati version of the divine right of kings, pushed for the retailed biddings, leading to skyrocketing costs for every phase of the project as the so-called bidders were not subject to any reference amount at the inception of the entire project," their supplemental complaint read.

NSO data as basis

The complainants used NSO data of years 2007, 2012, and 2014 to demonstrate that the Makati building was overpriced.

Using 2014 NSO data, which pegged the construction cost per square meter at P25,000 ($572), they said the building was overpriced by P1.9 billion ($43 million).

Using 2007 and 2012 NSO data wherein costs were at P8,013 ($183) and P9,527 ($218) per square meter respectively, they said the building was overpriced by around P2.4 billion ($55 million).

But the use of NSO data as basis for pricing has been disputed by Mayor Binay. He said the NSO figures would render other state buildings overpriced as well, including the Iloilo convention center funded in part by the development funds of Liberal Party (LP) stalwart and Senate President Franklin Drilon.

Political smear campaign?

The LP is the current administration party, with majority of Congress allied with the group. The Binays, on the other hand, are long-time oppositionists.

A congressional probe into the alleged overpriced Makati building was seen by the father-and-son tandem as a mere political smear campaign. 

Vice President Binay has long expressed his intention to run as president in the upcoming 2016 polls. Bondal and Enciso are reported to be long-time critics of the Binays. – Rappler.com

*US$1 = P43.69