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VP Binay critics: P1.3-B  Makati Science High overpriced

Critics of Vice President Jejomar Binay on Thursday claimed that the construction of the Makati Science High School was overpriced by P862 million or by almost 300 percent.

This and more allegations of corruption against Binay cropped up in yesterday's hearing of the Senate Blue Ribbon Subcommittee after the Vice President decided to shun the invitation of the mother committee to give his side as regards the accusations earlier hurled against him.
Lawyer Renato Bondal said the city government of Makati already shelled P1.3333 billion out of the P1.5 billion for the 10-storey school building when based on the industry average price, it should only cost P470 million.

It was mentioned that based on the 2013 rates from the Davis, Langdon and Seah Construction Handbook, the cost per square meter should only be P25,620. The cost reportedly shot up to P72,500 per square meter or an overpricing of  283-percent.
“Panahon pa si Vice President Binay na noon ay mayor noon, namana at itinuloy ng anak na si Mayor Junjun Binay.  Itong proyektong ito ay 10 floors at isang basement parking, 18,373 square meters at 54 classrooms,” he told the Senate Blue Ribbon subcommittee.

As in the allegedly overpriced P2.7-billion Makati City Hall Building II, the contractor that won the science high school project was Hilmarc's Corporation.
Mario Hechanova, former head of the Makati general services department and vice chairman of the Bids and Awards Committee, said the bidding for the building was likewise rigged.
“Sabay po yan biniding ng Makati City Hall Building II, niluto namin yan kaya nga ang sabi ko ay bidding-biddingan yan,” he told the subcommittee.

Hechanova said his group even included the names of other firms in the mix even if they weren't participating in the bidding process.

"Para gumanda laban, naghanap kami ng ibang kumpanya na isasalang namin," Hechanova said.
Jose Francisco Aquino, a representative of JFR Aquino Design, supported the allegations when he denied that the company participated in the bidding. A city hall document presented during the hearing indicated that his company was one of the three bidders.
"Hindi po kami kasama diyan. Taga-Quezon City po ako, hindi pa ako nakakasama sa mga bidding sa Makati," Aquino said. 

City Hall denial

In a press statement, the Makati City government dismissed Bondal’s statement as an old script, which is part of the campaign to besmirch the reputation and spread lies against Vice President Binay.

Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay Jr. is the son of the Vice President.
“Hindi kapani-paniwala ang mga sinasabi ng isang tao na umamin na nanghula lang sya sa presyo ng birthday cake sa Makati. Ang mga pinakitang computation ni Bondal, siguradong hula-hula lang. Lumang script na ang sinasabi ni Bondal. Bahagi ito ng kanilang kampanya ng paninira at kasinungalingan laban kay VP Binay,” the local government said in a press statement.
It said that all the projects in Makati, including the Makati Science High School, underwent a process in accordance with the law and passed the audit of the Commission on Audit.
“Tanging ang korte lang ang makapagsasabi kung may overpricing, hindi ang Senado at hindi si Bondal. Si Hechanova naman, laging ginagamit ang pangalan ng dating City Engineer Nelson Morales na patay na at hindi kayang ipagtanggol ang sarili. Sana maawa sya sa pamilyang naulila at nasasaktan sa kanyang mga paratang.” it said.

Bondal said computations showed that each of the classroom would cost P24.6 million to be constructed.
After spending P1.3 billion for the high school building, he said students could only use facilities up to the seventh floor of the school building.
“Hindi alam kung ano ang nangyari sa 8th , 9th, at 10th  floor. Wala pa rin yung sinasabing dormitory na pwedeng gamitin ng mga estudyante,” Bondal said.
Because of this, Senator Antonio Trillanes IV proposed that the subcommittee conduct an ocular inspection on the building. No date has been set yet for the inspection.

Other allegations

During the hearing, former Binay ally and former Makati City Vice Mayor Ernesto Mercado detailed how Binay allegedly maintained thousands of dollars in bank accounts abroad and how he had some of these accounts named after trusted aides Gerry Limlingan and Ebeng Baloloy.

However, Senator Aquilino Pimentel III, the chair of the subcommittee, disallowed a further discussion of Mercado's presentation of Binay's alleged bank accounts in the US and in Hong Kong.

He said it was unrelated to the original subject of the resolution to investigate the overpricing of the city hall building.

"This is non-declaration sa [Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth. The chairman won't touch it. Pwedeng ibang resolution yan not related to Resolution 826," Pimentel said.
Mercado also told the committee how he was made a dummy-owner of a four-hectare portion of the so-called "Hacienda Binay" in Rosario, Batangas. He alleged that Binay once made him sign a deed of sale, indicating that he was the owner of the piece of land.

He indicated that his supposed ownership of a portion of the Rosario property belied businessman Antonio Tiu's claims that he bought the estate from Laureano Gregorio Jr.

"Wala akong pinirmahan na binenta ko kay Gregorio," Mercado said.

Tiu, who claims his Sunchamp Corporation owns the Rosario property, has repeatedly denied allegations that he was fronting for Binay. Mercado has alleged in an earlier hearing that Binay owns 350 hectares of the questioned property littered with posh improvements such as mansions, gardens, a piggery and cock farm.

GMA News Online sought comment from Binay's spokespersons—Cavite Gov. Jonvic Remulla and lawyer JV Bautista—as regards the new allegations but have yet to receive answers as of posting time.

Binay snub

Binay snubbed the Senate inquiry anew despite an invitation from the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee itself. Binay earlier said that he could consider attending if it was the mother committee that invited him instead of the subcommittee.
Binay's camp has questioned the jurisdiction of the subcommittee in investigating the allegations against him. He submitted a letter to the committee explaining why he opted to skip the hearing.
Guingona said Binay wasted the opportunity to let the public hear his side and form their own opinion on the matter. 
"Sayang at pinili niyag tanggihan ang imbitasyon ng blue ribbon committee na dumalo at humarap sa pagdinig. Mahalagang pagkakataon sana ito para iparating sa ating mga kababayan ang kanyang panig," he said.
For the second time, Binay skipped the Senate probe on the controversial project which started when he was still Makati mayor. On Thursday, the Vice President was in Cebu to attend to several activities there.
In his statement, Binay said the senators conducting the probe “are not ready to hear any explanation that contradicts their conclusion that I am guilty.”
“This will set a bad precedent, where the Vice President, the second highest official of the land, can be summoned to a hearing by some senators,” Binay said in his letter to Senator Teofisto Guingona. —NB, GMA News