Senate of the Philippines

‘Personal vendetta’? Binay prepares ahead of Cayetano’s new Senate building probe

Bonz Magsambol

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‘Personal vendetta’? Binay prepares ahead of Cayetano’s new Senate building probe

File photos of Senators Nancy Binay and Alan Peter Cayetano

Binay (Senate PRIB); Cayetano (Rappler)

'I have to prepare na kasi napagdaanan ko na to 'eh, parang na-de-deja vu na nga ako sa mga nangyayari ngayon,' says Senator Nancy Binay

MANILA, Philippines – Ahead of the public hearing about the ballooning expenses of the P23-billion new Senate building on Wednesday, July 3, Senator Nancy Binay said she is preparing herself in case the probe would be used for “personal ambition or vendetta.”

“I have to prepare na kasi napagdaanan ko na to ‘eh, parang na-de-déjà vu na nga ako sa mga nangyayari. Ngayon na dapat paghandaan ko na hindi na dapat maulit ‘yong ganitong sistema na nagagamit ‘yong Senado for… personal ambition or vendetta,” Binay told reporters on Tuesday, July 2, when asked if she thinks she was being targeted by Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, the current chair of the committee on accounts.

(I have to prepare because I passed through the same situation before. What’s happening now feels like deja vu, and I should prepare that this kind of system, wherein the Senate is being used for personal ambition or vendetta, won’t happen again.)

The committee on accounts is in charge of the Senate’s budget, expenses, audit, and other fiscal activities, including the ongoing construction of the new Senate building in Fort Bonifacio in Taguig. Binay is the former accounts committee chair.

The two lawmakers have been at odds in the past. It was Cayetano who led the year-long probe against the Binay family in Makati infrastructure projects in 2015, including the overpriced Makati building.

Barely a month into his leadership, Senate President Francis Escudero said he was shocked that the upper chamber’s new home will cost the government P23 billion to complete, a 158% increase from the original P8.9 billion. This prompted him to order a comprehensive review of the project.

The construction began under the leadership of former Senate president Tito Sotto. Former senator Panfilo Lacson was chair of the committee on accounts at that time before it was transferred to Binay.

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Hilmarc’s track record

The contract was awarded to Hilmarc’s Construction Corporation by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), which is the implementing agency of the project.

Hilmarc’s is the same company that was embroiled in the overpriced P2.3-billion Makati City Hall Building II way back in 2014. The project was initiated in 2007 under then-mayor Jejomar Binay and was completed in 2012 under his son, Jejomar Erwin “Junjun” Binay Jr., who became mayor in 2010. (READ: Binay’s Makati building overshoots approved budget)

On Monday, July 1, Cayateno posted on Facebook that he had already received documents from the DPWH ahead of the Senate hearing.

Fueling Makati-Taguig issue?

During Tuesday’s press briefing, Binay reiterated that she held briefings with colleagues regarding updates of the new Senate building, including the staff of Escudero. However, she said Cayetano was not able to get briefed because he was absent at that time. She also said Cayetano has not reached out to her until now.

“Ang nakakalungkot kasi ‘yong bagong chairperson ng committee as usual absent na naman siya so hindi siya nag-attend no’ng briefing ko ‘di ba? Which, ‘di ko naman kasalanan,” she said, alluding to Cayetano.

(What’s disappointing is that the new chairperson of the committee was absent as usual that’s why he wasn’t able to attend my briefing, which was not my fault at all.)

According to Senate records, Cayetano was the Senate top absentee from July 24, 2023 to February 21, 2024. He attended only 36 of the 54 regular sessions in the said period. He missed 18 sessions; four were due to official missions.

Reporters reached out to Cayetano’s office for comment, but they have yet to respond as of this posting.

‘No irregularities’

On Monday, Escudero said he never said there were irregularities. “Nobody alleged irregularity. I’m not alleging any irregularity. I never alleged irregularity. I don’t know why people are sounding too defensive about this,” he added.

The Senate President said that it was his job to study and look for ways to bring down the cost.

Binay also claimed that there’s one senator sowing intrigue against her and the new Senate building, but she refused to name the said colleague.

Binay also said that the issue on the new Senate building is being used to fuel the Makati-Taguig feud.

“Noong una, ayaw kong maniwala ‘eh pero habang tumatagal parang doon tumutumbok na nagagamit lang ‘yung Senate building for his issue ‘di ba,” Binay said.

(At first, I don’t want to believe that it’s related to that, but as time goes by, it seems that the he is using the new Senate building for his own issues.)

The dispute between the Binays and the Cayetanos was compounded when Taguig won jurisdiction over 10 “embo” barangays that were previously under Makati.

Makati Mayor Abby Binay, whose term ends in 2025, expressed a desire to seek the Taguig mayorship in the same year. Meanwhile, Senator Binay said that she’s eyeing to run for mayor in Makati as her Senate term ends next year. –

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Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler.