COA denies clearing alleged overpriced Makati carpark building

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014


THE Commission on Audit (COA) will reinvestigate the controversies surrounding the 11-storey Makati City Hall Parking Building and the 22-storey Makati City Hall building, which is now the subject of a plunder case filed against Vice President Jejomar Binay.

This was according to COA Commissioner Grace Pulido-Tan during a hearing conducted Wednesday by the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee.

Pulido clarified that COA did not make an official clearance, as earlier claimed by Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin "Junjun" Binay who said that it was the COA report that cleared the overpricing issue.

(Al Padilla/Sunnex)

"The Commission does not issue clearances in that tenor. That memorandum was addressed to the National Capital Region Internal Communication report of Ms. Cagaanan, dated February 17. And that memo will be evaluated. This is just a mere report, which need appropriate review and evaluation. There is no categorical statement and clearance yet from COA," said Pulido-Tan.

During the hearing, the Makati Mayor said there is no such thing as overpricing as everything went through the right procedure, which is bidding and transparency.

Binay in his opening statement denied the allegations of anomaly and overpricing as he explained that they really made the building "a world class one".

"Ang nasabing proyekto ay hindi parking building o gusali para sa parking lamang. Ito ay office building ng Makati City hall na may mga floors para sa sasakyan," he said.

"Ang Makati City Hall Building 2 ay may features na version po namin ng isang green building. Mayroon itong landscaped na roofdeck, atrium sa seventh floor, may LED lighting, glass walls at panels," he added. "Mayroon din itong granite flooring, centralized airconditioning, dalawang elevators, mga conference rooms at mini-function halls sa ibat-ibang palapag at iba pang facilities at modern amenities na makikita sa isang modernong office building."

"At para po tiyaking ang tibay nito dahil nakatayo po tayo sa malambot na lupa at may mga floors para sa parking, ginamit ang bored piles and steel sheet piling na pundasyon ng building 2. 'Yan po ang Makati City Hall building," Binay told the committee.

He said the National Statistic Office (NSO) is not the final arbiter on overpricing, which he maintained is further established by jurisprudence.

"To prove overpricing, an actual canvass of similar items is needed. This was the ruling of the Supreme Court in Arriola vs COA and National Mental Health Center vs COA," the younger Binay said.

Binay, meanwhile, criticized his political foes for apparently omitting from the evidence submitted to the Ombudsman an ordinance, which included the names of their political allies as principal sponsors of an ordinance appropriating funds for the Makati City Hall building 2.

The mayor said the complainants failed to provide the Ombudsman with a copy of city ordinance 2008-035.

The ordinance was principally sponsored by several councilors, among them Romulo Pena, who was then sectoral representative for the Liga ng mga Barangay and then Vice Mayor Ernesto Mercado.

The ordinance is entitled "An Ordinance appropriating P2,260,000,000 as Supplemental Budget 2 for Calendar Year 2008 Intended for Various Projects, Plans and Programs Enumerated in the Explanation of Expenditures."

The ordinance covers appropriations for Building 2, which is the subject of the plunder complaint filed by Renato Bondal against the mayor, Vice President Binay and members of the City Council.

Bondal and Nicholas Ching Enciso who filed plunder case against the Binays said, "This is the most expensive parking building in the world."

Costing P2.7 billion, the carpark building with 18 floors, 31,928 square meters, five parking floors, five office floors and one basement will have an average cost of P84,000 per square meter.

Bondal told the Blue Ribbon committee that the industry average for a carpark at 2007 prices is P12,000 to P18,000 per square meter. The industry average for offices at P26,000 to P33,150.

Comparing to the cost of the Makati City Carpark building there is a seeming overprice of P2 billion.

"Halos P2 billion ang bukol at kinita ng mga Binay sa building na ito," Bondal said, which evoked reaction from Senator JV Ejercito who asked that words used by the resource person be tempered to avoid politicizing the issue.

Bondal even compared the overpriced structure to some recognized buildings in Makati.

In his presentation, Bondal that the 46-storey Shang Grand Towers in Makati, which had a total cost of P2 billion and a value o P40,000 per square meter, was only one-fourth of the overpriced parking building.

In addition, the 57-storey Greenbelt Residences only amounted to P45,000 per square meter, was only a half figure compared to P84,000 per square meter of 11-storey Makati parking building.

Binay, however, said that each building was different from each other and should not be compared.

"The P7,000/sqm construction cost they cited is an approximate cost of a low cost housing, not an office building," Binay said, pertaining to the figures given by his opponents.

"That's the Makati City Hall Building II, not a parking building. For us, enough is not enough," he added.

Binay said the city hall was made to be a "world class building" to benefit the employees and thousands of Makati residents and clients and to be "globally competitive."

Makati was hailed as the "most competitive city" among 136 cities in the Philippines by the National Competitiveness Council, coordinated by the Department of Trade Industry (DTI) and other private sectors, he added.

In an earlier interview, Binay said he suspects the game plan is to have him and the rest of the city council, except for the vice mayor, suspended.

"Their plan is to have me and the entire city council suspended to pave the way for the designation of their Liberal Party ally as acting mayor. The city council will now be filled with with Nacionalista Party, Liberal Party and other characters who have not won a single election but may now be appointed, thereby subverting the will of the people of Makati," he said.

Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, author of Senate Resolution 826, clarified that the said probe is not about any political fight but to do what is mandated of them to do as elected legislators.

"This is about the truth. I believe this case is imbued with the public interest because it involves the Vice President and a potential President of the country. So it is high time that we investigate this so that the public will know if these allegations are true. On our part as legislators, we are more interested in looking at possible loopholes in the procurement law so that we can legislate remedial measures so this won't happen again," he said.

Resolution 826, earlier asked the Blue Ribbon committee to conduct an investigation on the alleged overpriced construction of the said Makati City Government buildings.

Last month, plunder and graft charges were filed against Vice President Binay, Mayor Binay and 23 others, due to alleged "unconscionable overpricing" in the construction of an 11-storey parking building that the City Government supposedly built for P1.56 billion.

Complainants said the building should be P798,200,000 as the reasonable cost of construction based on the present construction standards for high-end commercial buildings of the NSO.

According to Resolution 826, the actual payments for the said building as of December 31, 2013, per the COA Report of February 17, 2014, already amounts to a total of P2,367,679,633.95, with the building contract split into five phases in violation of existing procurement law but which were all miraculously won by one and the same contractor. Hence, the City of Makati actually spent around to P 2.4 billion for the said building, thus, placing the actual overpriced sum in the amount of P 1.601 billion. It added that this overpriced amount could have built more than 3,000 classrooms, inclusive of toilets and furniture.

Meanwhile, United Makati Against Corruption (UMAC) protested outside the Senate building in Pasay while the Blue Ribbon committee hearing about the alleged overpriced Makati parking building was ongoing.

“If we will compare the amount corrupted by Napoles, Revilla, and Enrile, Binay’s (taken alleged overpriced parking building) is much bigger (than the three),” UMAC spokesperson Kim Paredes said in an interview with Sunstar.

Paredes said that the protest was made to unleash the truth that the Makati Citizens were not really “wealthy” because Binay was a “corrupt” official.

“If there is already a corruption in Makati, what more if he (Vice President Jejomar Binay) run on the 2016 election?” Paredes said.

Bondal said the engineering details of materials and designs of the New Makati City Hall should be released to know how the building amounted to P2.7 billion.

Despite all this allegations, Binay said the city government of Makati would remain committed to serve the constituents with transparency, honesty, integrity, efficiency, and compassion.

Malacanang, meantime, distanced itself from the investigation being conducted by the Senate on the alleged overpriced parking building in Makati City Hall.

Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said on Wednesday that the Senate is an independent body.

"You like a categorical answer: walang bas[bas]… Wala kaming kinalaman diyan. This is a Senate decision to investigate that but we have no hand on that," he said in a press briefing.

He said it would be up to Vice President Jejomar Binay and Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay to answer the issue being investigated by the Senate blue ribbon committee.

"So, as far as we are concerned, we have nothing to do with it," Lacierda said.

The vice president, his son and some others are facing plunder case before the Ombudsman over the construction of the P1.56-billion 11-storey parking building in Makati City. (Camille P. Balagtas/Ruth Abbey Gita/SDR/Sunnex)

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