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Ombudsman finds probable cause to file graft raps vs VP Binay, 23 others

(Updated 5:09 p.m.) The Ombudsman has found probable cause to file graft charges against Vice President Jejomar Binay, his son dismissed Makati Mayor Junjun Binay and 22 others over the allegedly overpriced construction of the Makati City Hall Building II.

Ombudsman spokesperson and Field Investigation Office acting director Maria Janina Hidalgo said Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales had recently ordered the filing of graft, malversation and falsification of public documents charges before the Sandiganbayan against the Binay father and son and 22 other employees of the Makati City government.

“The Office of the Ombudsman has found probable cause for file graft, malversation and falsification of public documents against Vice President Jejomar Binay, Mr. Junjun Binay and 22 others in relation to the anomaly regarding the Makati carpark project," Hidalgo said in an interview Monday.

But while the charges against the younger Binay and 22 others were ordered to be filed immediately, Hidalgo said the case against the older Binay will have to be filed after the end of his term as Vice President.

“Yes right now, he (Vice President Binay) is immune from charges. So we will have to wait until the end of his term,” Hidalgo said. “If he wins the presidential elections, then we will have to wait another six years [before the cases can be filed].” 

Charges vs. Binays, others

In a press statement issued shortly after Hidalgo’s announcement, the Ombudsman said VP Binay was found liable for four counts of violation of Section 3 (e) of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, one count of malversation of public funds as defined under the Revised Penal Code, and six counts of falsification of public documents, over his alleged involvement in the first two phases of the project.
“As per our investigation, the Vice President Binay, during his term as Makati City mayor, approved several payments and various other acts in relation to the car park project despite the fact that there were several deficiencies and violations of Republic Act 9184 (Government Procurement Reform Act),” Hidalgo said.
Meanwhile, the younger Binay was ordered to be charged with the same counts of offenses such as his father, but for his alleged involvement in phases two to six of the project, during his term as the Makati City mayor.
The Ombudsman said “flagrant anomalies” were found to have been committed by the Binays and their co-accused in the design and construction of the project, which was divided into six phases.
“Documents show that VP Binay and Mayor Binay Jr., approved the BAC (Bids and Awards Committee) resolutions, notices of awards, contracts and payments using unnumbered/undated disbursement vouchers and obligation requests,” the Ombudsman said.
In the same statement, Morales maintained that her office has the jurisdiction to investigate an impeachable official contrary to VP Binay’s claim.
“Being an impeachable officer does not insulate him from investigation,” Morales said.
Morales pointed out that the older Binay is being investigated for an offense he allegedly committed during his term as mayor and not as Vice President.
“At all events, impeachable officers, like Binay Sr., are within the investigatory power or jurisdiction of this Office,” the Ombudsman resolution read.

Also ordered to be charged along with the Binays were the following Makati government officials: Marjorie De Veyra, Pio Kenneth Dasal, Lorenza Amores, Virginia Hernandez, Line Dela Peña, Mario Badillo, Leonila Querijero, Raydes Pestaño, Nelia Barlis, Cecilio Lim III, Arnel Cadangan, Emerito Magat, Connie Consulta, Ulysses Orienza, Giovanni Condes, Manolito Uyaco, Norman Flores, Gerardo San Gabriel, Eleno Mendoza, Jr. and Rodel Nayve.
Others to be charged as well are Orlando Mateo from Mana Architecture and Interior Design, Co. (MANA) and Efren Canlas of Hilmarc’s Construction Company (Hilmarc’s).
Morales said “the existence of conspiracy among respondents is evident from the chain of events and as shown by the evidence on record.”
For the first and second phases or the design stage of the project, the Ombudsman said the services of MANA were engaged without holding a public bidding.
Further, the Ombudsman noted that four payments totaling P11.97 million were made to MANA “despite the incomplete submission of deliverables such as design plans, working drawings, and technical specifications.”
Meanwhile, for the last four phases, or the construction stage of the project, the Ombudsman said Binay and the other city officials conspired to manipulate the outcome of the five public biddings “for the purpose of ensuring that Hilmarc’s Construction Corporation would be awarded the contracts.”
The Ombudsman said the city government purposely failed to publish the required invitation to bidwhich resulted to the declaration that Hilmarc’s was the lone bidder for the four phases of the project.
The Ombudsman added that the construction 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 (1) day in violation of R.A. No. 9184,” the Ombudsman said.
Hidalgo said the younger Binay and 22 other city government officials were given five days to file their motion for reconsideration on the Ombudsman’s resolution.
But based on the Ombudsman’s rules of procedure, the anti-graft body can file the cases even while the decision is still subject for appeal.

Timing questioned 

The Ombudsman's latest order as regards the Makati City Hall Building II was made public just hours after the Vice President and Senator Gringo Honasan filed their respective certificates of candidacy for president and vice president.

This prompted the Binay camp to question the timing of the Ombudsman's decision.

Joey Salgado, one of the Vice President's spokespersons, dismissed the Ombudsman's ruling as part of a "perception war" to ruin Binay's chances of winning, adding the Ombudsman was well aware that Binay, being an impeachable official, enjoyed immunity from suit.

Salgado said the Ombudsman could've waited for Binay's term to end next year before filing the charges.

But Hidalgo denied allegations that the decision against the Binays and their co-accused was railroaded in time for the upcoming elections.
“Hindi po ito minadali, ang dapat pong malaman ng ating mga kababayan nagsimula po ang investigation noong September 15, 2014 and that means na mahigit na po isang taon mula ng imbestigahan ang bagay na ito,” Hidalgo said.
“Nagkataon lang na lumabas ang investigaiton ngayon. This is a matter of national concern that people have to be aware of considering that election is coming up. It is part of the mandate of the Office of the Ombudsman to inform the country of what is happening,” Hidalgo added.

On Friday last week, the Ombudsman ordered the dismissal and perpetual disqualification from service of the younger Binay for administrative charges of grave misconduct and serious dishonesty also in connection with the alleged overpriced construction of the P2.28-billion Makati City Hall Building II also referred as the Makati parking building.

The Ombudsman’s special panel of investigators in March started its preliminary investigation on the complaint against the Binays and their co-accused over the Makati parking building construction anomaly.

The fact-finding investigation started in September. The investigation stemmed from a complaint filed by former Makati councilor Renato Bondal, opponent of the younger Binay in the 2013 mayoralty elections.

Aside from the alleged anomaly in construction of the Makati parking building, the Binay father and son and a several city government officials are also facing preliminary investigation by the Ombudsman special panel for graft and malversation over the alleged anomalous construction of the Makati Science High School. — NB/RSJ, GMA News