By Perfecto T. Raymundo
MANILA, Oct. 12 (PNA) — Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales has found probable cause for the filing of multiple charges for violation of Section 3(e) of Republic Act No. 3019, or the “Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act”, malversation of public funds and falsification of public documents against Vice President Jejomar Binay Sr., Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin “Jun-Jun” Binay Jr. and 22 others in connection with the alleged anomalous bidding and construction of the Makati carpark building project undertaken from 2007 to 2013.
The finding of probable cause comes after more than one year of investigation.
The fact-finding investigation began in September 2014 while the preliminary investigation began in March 2015.
VP Binay faces four counts of violation of Section 3 (e) of RA No. 3019, 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 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.
Documents show that VP Binay and Binay Jr. approved the BAC resolutions, notices of awards, contracts and payments using unnumbered/undated disbursement vouchers and obligation requests.
Morales dismissed VP Binay’s contention that the Office of the Ombudsman (Ombudsman) has no jurisdiction to investigate impeachable officials.
She said that “being an impeachable officer does not insulate him from investigation.”
The Ombudsman stressed that VP Binay is being investigated for criminal acts committed while he was a city 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 said.
However, the cases will be filed after the expiration of his tenure as an impeachable officer consistent with the principle that during incumbency, an impeachable officer cannot be the subject of a criminal offense filed with the court which carries the penalty of removal from office.
Binay Jr. faces four counts of violation of Section 3(e) of RA No. 3019, six counts of falsification of public documents, and one count of malversation for his involvement in phases 2 to 6 of the project.
Morales also ordered the filing of criminal cases against Binay’s co-respondents, namely: 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.
Also included in the indictment are Orlando Mateo from Mana Architecture and Interior Design, Co. (MANA) and Efren Canlas of Hilmarc’s Construction Company (Hilmarc’s).
The services of MANA were engaged without the benefit of public bidding.
The documents established badges of 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 payments totaling to Php11.97 million despite the incomplete submission of deliverables such as design plans, working drawings, and technical specifications.
Procurement violations were also committed, including the absence of publication of invitations to bid as provided in RA No. 9184, or the “Government Procurement Reform Act”.
A certified true copy of the publication obtained from the National Library shows that no advertisement for the invitations to bid was made as attested to by the publisher.
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.
The Ombudsman said that “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.”
Even the Commission on Audit Fraud Audit Office’s Initial Evaluation Report noted that “the negotiated procurement adopted by the BAC was improper.”
The construction projects were awarded to Hilmarc’s despite the lack of the required publication of the invitations to bid, with Hilmarc’s as the lone bidder in four phases of the project.
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 RA No. 9184.
The resolutions said that 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.
An executive from JBros, an alleged bidder, corroborated the finding of rigged bidding and disowned the company’s participation.
Morales said that “the existence of conspiracy among respondents is evident from the chain of events and as shown by the evidence on record.”
It can be recalled that on Oct. 9, 2015, the Ombudsman ordered the dismissal from the service and perpetual disqualification of Mayor Binay Jr. and 17 others for grave misconduct and serious dishonesty in the parallel administrative case. (PNA)