THE Office of the Ombudsman on Monday indicted Vice President Jejomar Binay and his son, dismissed Makati City mayor Erwin Jejomar Binay Jr. on criminal charges for the questionable construction of Makati City Hall Building II.
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales also found probable cause to file multiple charges for violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, malversation of public funds and falsification of public documents against 22 other city officials.
The Binay camp denounced the Ombudsman’s decision and said the timing of its announcement—just minutes after Binay and his running mate Senator Gregorio Honasan filed their certificates of candidacy—proved that the charges were politically motivated.
“This is a case of abuse of power by the Ombudsman,” said Binay’s spokesman for political affairs Rico Quicho. “The timing is suspicious because they fully knew that the VP would file his COC.”
He added that there was malice in the Ombudsman’s order because she was fully aware that the vice president is covered by immunity and may not be removed except by impeachment.
The criminal charges arose from allegations of irregularities in the bidding and construction of the Makati carpark building project undertaken from 2007 to 2013.
The finding of probable cause comes after more than a year-long fact-finding investigation. The preliminary investigation began in March.
The older Binay is facing four counts of violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, six counts of falsification of public documents and one count of malversation for his involvement in phases 1 and 2 of the carpark project.
“In two separate resolutions on six docketed cases, flagrant anomalies were found to have been committed by Binay Sr. et al. in the design and construction of the building consisting of six phases,” the Ombudsman’s decision read.
Based on documents obtained by the Ombudsman, Binay and his son approved the bids and awards committee’s resolutions, notices of awards, contracts and payments using unnumbered and undated disbursement vouchers and obligation requests.
Morales rejected the vice president’s argument that the anti-graft body had no jurisdiction to investigate impeachable officials, saying “being an impeachable officer does not insulate him from investigation.”
“The Office of the Ombudsman stressed that VP Binay is being investigated for criminal acts committed while he was a city mayor and not as vice president,” her official statement read.
“At all events, impeachable officers, like Binay Sr., are within the investigatory power or jurisdiction of this Office.”
The charges would be filed after Binay’s tenure of office as vice president, Morales said.
The younger Binay faces four counts of violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, six counts of falsification of public documents and one count of malversation for his involvement in phases 2 to 6 of the project.
Ombudsman Morales also ordered the filing of criminal charges against former city administrator Marjorie De Veyra, legal officer Pio Kenneth Dasal, budget officer Lorenza Amores, central planning
management office (CPMO) head Virginia Hernandez, Line Dela Peña, engineer Mario Badillo, accountant Leonila Querijero, acting accountant Raydes Pestaño, treasurer Nelia Barlis, accountant Cecilio Lim III, engineer Arnel Cadangan, engineer Emerito Magat, engineer Connie Consulta, Ulysses Orienza, Giovanni Condes, Manolito Uyaco, General Services Department (GSD) staffer Norman Flores, GSD officer in charge Gerardo San Gabriel, accountant Eleno Mendoza Jr. and technical working group chairman Rodel Nayve.
Also included in the indictment are Orlando Mateo from Mana Architecture and Interior Design Co. (MANA) and Efren Canlas of Hilmarc’s Construction Co. (Hilmarc’s).
The services of MANA were engaged without the benefit of public bidding, the Ombudsman said.
“The documents established… fraud committed by Binay Sr. 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 added.
The respondents also violated the Government Procurement Reform Act, such as the absence of publications of invitations to bid.
“There was undue haste in the award as it took the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) only 11 days to complete the procurement process for the multi-million peso infrastructure project,” Morales said.
“The purported negotiation and evaluation of bid proposals on 22 November 2007 was conducted with extraordinary speed” as “for one hour only, the BAC completed the entire negotiation proceedings where bid proposals of seven architectural firms that allegedly participated in this multi-million project were opened and evaluated.”
The Commission on Audit’s fraud audit office noted that “the negotiated procurement adopted by the BAC was improper.”
The construction project began even in the absence of approved design standards, contract plans, agency cost estimates, detailed engineering and programs of work.
No pre-procurement conference was undertaken and bid documents were made available only for one day in violation of the Government Procurement Reform Act.
There was collusion among city officials and Hilmarc’s to manipulate the outcome of the five “public biddings” for the purpose of ensuring that Hilmarc’s would be awarded the contracts, the Ombudsman said.
An executive from JBros, an alleged bidder, corroborated the finding of rigged bidding and disowned the firm’s participation.
“The existence of conspiracy among respondents is evident from the chain of events and as shown by the evidence on record,” the Ombudsman said.
Binay’s media office chief Joey Salcedo said the charges of corruption were “all lies” and that the testimony given in the Senate would not stand up in court.
Binay’s political enemies had no evidence to back their allegations, which he said were based on hearsay and uncorroborated claims.
The complainants in the plunder case filed against Binay before the Office of the Ombudsman were former Makati vice mayor Ernesto Mercado.
After filing his COC, Honasan said he had confidence in the jucidial process.
He added that the people would pass judgment on them in next year’s election.
Both Binay and Honasan heard Mass in San Agustin Church before filing their certificates of candidacy, accompanied by hundreds of supporters chanting “UNA na, BinGo pa!”
They were the first tandem to file their COCs on the first day of the week-long filing at the Commission on Election’s main office in Intramuros, Manila.
The Vice President was accompanied by his wife Elenita, and their children, Senator Nancy Binay and suspended Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay Jr.
The presidential and vice presidential aspirants, both facing graft and corruption charges claimed they will face the allegations in the right forum, saying it was all political propaganda orchestrated by their political opponents.
In an interview, Binay maintained that the complaint against him for plunder and graft in connection with the alleged overpricing and rigging of procurement for infrastructure projects in Makati are politically motivated.
Binay said that now that he had already filed his candidacy, his political opponents are now working to have him arrested before the campaign period starts. – With Macon Ramos-Araneta