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VP Binay: Trillanes tried to intimidate witness in ‘overpriced’ building probe

(Updated 4:34 p.m.) Vice President Jejomar Binay on Wednesday accused Senator Antonio Trillanes IV of trying to intimidate a witness in the Senate blue ribbon committee hearing on the alleged irregularities in the construction of Makati City Hall Building II, which supposedly benefited the Binay family.

"Alam ba ninyo, kahapon tinangka pang pigilan ni Sen. Trillanes ang testimonya ng kontratista? Sinabihan siyang 'wag nang tetestigo, pinagmumura pa siya ni Sen. Trillanes," Binay, who was Makati mayor when the building was constructed in 2007, said at a press briefing in Pasay City.

He added that Trillanes, who filed the resolution that set the blue ribbon committee investigation in motion, even threatened to file a plunder complaint against the witness if he will not cooperate.

"Dinuro pa siya at tinakot [yung witness], sinabing ipinasasama pa sa reklamo, tinakot na ipa-plunder,” Binay said, as he reiterated that neither he nor his family received kickbacks from any Makati projects during their tenure as Makati mayor.

"Ako at ang aking pamilya, wala kaming tinanggap kahit kailan o kahit saan," he said.

Binay did not give the identity of the witness, but Robert Henson, president of Hilmarc's Construction Corporation, the contractor in the Makati City Hall Building II project, had attended Tuesday's hearing by the blue ribbon panel.

Henson, in his testimony during Tuesday's hearing, denied that the building was overpriced.

Trillanes seeks confirmation

Trillanes, in an interview on ANC, said he would only comment on the matter if Binay will confirm that the supposed conversation between him and the contractor came from a representative of the contractor.

“The Vice President should first make a categorical statement that these conversations were confided to him by a representative of the contractor which is Hilmarc’s, so that will also confirm that they are one and the same. That confirmation first before I respond,” he said.

“I totally deny anything unless the Vice President will confirm a specific instance or specific conversation,” he added.

Trillanes also questioned the information that Binay got from what was supposed to be a private conversation between him and the resource person, and raised the possibility of connivance.

“He’s not supposed to know anything about it unless these people are conniving with the Vice President. Why was he conniving with the contractor? So it validates our point that the contractor and the Vice President are one and they are partners in this endeavour,” he said, referring to the overpriced building issue.

“The Vice President is in panic mode already because he knows that we are getting closer to the truth,” he said. “Let me assure the Vice President that all these attempts to get the sympathy of the public or pressure us to stopping is not gonna happen. We will continue with the investigation until we get to the bottom of everything.”

Linked to survey?

Binay, who has been topping surveys on possible presidential candidates in the 2016 elections, linked the ongoing investigation by the Senate blue ribbon committee to new polling results.

"Sa mga hearings, binibigyan laya lang ang mga gustong manira sa akin at sa aking pamilya. Ang dahilan ay ang parating daw na survey siguro," he said.

Trillanes, meanwhile, reiterated his challenge to Binay to attend the blue ribbon committee hearing.

“He can rant all he want, he can call it by whatever name, but we are still waiting for his explanation and he should address the issue the soonest because the public is waiting for that,” he said.

Raps vs. Binays

A plunder and graft complaint has been filed against Binay and his son, incumbent Makati Mayor Junjun Binay, in connection with the alleged overpricing in the construction of Makati City Hall Building II. The younger Binay was city councilor in 2007.

The Senate is conducting an inquiry in aid of legislation on the alleged overpricing of the 11-storey Makati building. The building has a total floor area of 31,928 square meters and has five parking floors, five office floors and a basement.

The investigation was launched after Renato Bondal, the younger Binay's opponent in the 2013 mayoralty race, alleged that the building was overpriced by over P1 billion.

Bondal, during Tuesday's hearing, said officials of Hilmarc's were not included in the plunder complaint because they do not have enough documents to support accusations against the company.

Trillanes said the construction company should be included in the complaint.—Patricia Denise Chiu and Amita Legaspi/KBK/YA, GMA News