Get real
Philippine Daily Inquirer, 13 June 2015


The Pimentel Report—“Partial Report on the Alleged Pricing of the Makati City Hall II Parking Building”—deserves more attention than it has received, particularly because Vice President Jejomar Binay, who is one of those recommended to be charged with plunder, wants to be president of the Philippines.

So let’s revisit the Report. Exactly what did it say? It asked and answered four questions:

1) Was the Makati City Hall II Parking Building overpriced? 2) If yes, what crime was committed? (If none, nothing more to be said.) 3) Who should be charged with the crime? 4) What lessons can be learned, what recommendations and legislation should be made to prevent repetitions? After all, the purpose of the Senate blue ribbon subcommittee’s inquiry was “in aid of legislation.”

But the Report also fully discussed: a) the ownership of “Hacienda Binay” in Rosario, Batangas, and b) the interconnected anomalous practices, like rigged bidding (with Hilmarc’s Construction as favored bidder, which won the bids for five major projects), payoffs to the Bids and Awards Committee, and the “3-bag kickback system,” which was supposed to characterize what was happening in Makati during VP Binay’s stint as mayor.

According to the Report, there were “red flags” flying all over the place, but nobody was paying attention.

For those who were glued to their TV sets during the subcommittee’s hearings, the finding that the parking building was overpriced did not come as a surprise. But what makes the Report notable is the care with which all the details are presented, so that its conclusions are inevitable.

For example, the Report used five different approaches to decide whether there was an overprice: 1) the valuation approach, which compares the total construction cost of a project with its current market value; 2) the benchmarking against industry standard approach, which is self-explanatory; 3) the comparison approach, or comparing the costs with costs of similar buildings in the area; 4) the bill of quantities (materials) approach, or comparing the costs of individual items with their current market value and with their costs over the different phases of the project; and 5) the expert opinion approach.

All approaches screamed OVERPRICE, which was estimated at anywhere from P1.1 billion to P1.4 billion. This for the parking building alone. When the Reader thinks of the other Makati buildings whose costs have been questioned—the 22-story Makati City Hall, the Ospital ng Makati, the Makati Science High School, in fact all the infrastructure projects of Makati—the Reader will tremble at the magnitude of the total.

Using the smaller amount of P1.1 billion, and with the population of Makati at 527,000 in 2010, that represents the theft of P2,133 from every Makati resident. Taking it further, given that families considered poor have an average family size of six, and families considered “core poor” or “food poor” have an average family size of 6.4, each poor family of Makati got robbed of P12,798 by just the overprice on the parking building.

The crime has to be plunder (at least P50 million, and this one is more than 20 times that).

Who should be charged? The Report asserted that it was a grand conspiracy, and that the persons liable were Jejomar Binay, who signed as agency head for the preliminary services and for Phases I to III, and for his involvement in the 3-bag kickback system (a special bag marked “J” was allegedly meant for him); Junjun Binay, who signed as agency head and for Phases IV and V; Eduviges Baloloy; Gerry Limlingan; all members of the Bids and Awards Committee; Efren Canlas and Robert Henson of Hilmarc’s (construction); and Orlando Mateo of Mana (architecture and design).

The Report had 22 other recommendations, most of which dealt with new laws or amendments to existing laws. Pretty good.

So what has been Vice President Binay’s reaction to all this? Same old, same old: This is all nothing but politics, brought up by people who have personal and political axes to grind.

I am innocent.

That doesn’t wash anymore, Mr. Vice President. Not with all the evidence brought up by the Report, including all the irregularities and lies, listed one by one, attendant to the bidding processes for the Parking Building. It is no wonder that 10 senators, including Chiz Escudero and Grace Poe, voted for the Report. The wonder will be if the other senators will NOT vote for it, considering its damning contents. In my opinion, it is the possible No vote that will be politically motivated. Flying in the face of the overwhelming evidence. Mga kapal muks.

Unfortunately, the criminal charges and proceedings will take time, which we do not have: Elections are in May 2016. And VP Binay will use his standard tactics to delay the proceedings. We are faced now with his latest strategy: Tell the world that he expects P-Noy to endorse him (the structural message being, P-Noy does not believe the charges against him). P-Noy dismissed the claim, but while the claim made headlines, the dismissal did not.

Maybe P-Noy can put paid to VP Binay’s claim in a more headline-grabbing manner: What if he directs, as provided for by the Administrative Code of 1987, the Solicitor General to institute proceedings against VP Binay, “to recover properties unlawfully acquired by public officials or employees, from them or from their nominees or transferees”? That will show us that P-Noy is really for daang matuwid, no matter who is involved.

When are the other reports of the Pimentel subcommittee coming out?