LESS than two weeks after leaving office, former Vice President Jejomar Binay was charged by the Ombudsman on Thursday with malversation of public funds, four counts of graft and nine counts of falsification of public documents before the Sandiganbayan.
The 14 charges involve the allegedly overpriced Makati City Parking Building 2, which was investigated by the Senate blue ribbon committee headed by Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel 3rd.
The former Vice President’s son, ex-Makati mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay Jr., is also facing malversation raps.
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales ordered the filing of criminal charges against the Binays and 20 others, finding that the P2.2-billion Makati City Parking Building 2 project did not undergo public bidding, and that four tranches of payments amounting to P11.97 million to contractor Mana Architecture and Interior Design Co. were processed and approved despite the non-submission of documents such as design plans, working drawings and technical specifications.
The supposed negotiation and evaluation of bid proposals in November 2007 was conducted with extraordinary speed, the Ombudsman said, noting that the Bids and Awards Committee completed the entire negotiation proceedings, where bid proposals of seven architectural firms were opened and evaluated, in just one hour.
The Ombudsman accused Makati City officials of colluding with Hilmarc’s Construction Company to manipulate the outcome of five public biddings for the project, to ensure that Hilmarc’s won the contracts.
In a statement, the Binay camp accused Carpio-Morales, a retired Supreme Court justice, of being a political tool of the previous Aquino administration, which the former Vice President had accused of masterminding a demolition job against him.
“Clearly, this is a diversionary move intended to shield her political patrons from public indignation,” it said, referring to the recent filing by militant groups of a graft complaint against former President Benigno Aquino 3rd and former Budget secretary Florencio Abad over the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program.
“The Ombudsman’s fealty to the Constitution and to the public interest has long been compromised by her willingness to be a tool for political ends,” Joey Salgado, spokesman for former Vice President Binay, said.
Binay’s camp threatened to get back at the Ombudsman.
“Former Vice President Binay is ready to face his accusers and clear his name in a fair and impartial hearing, and the Ombudsman should also be ready to account for her actions in the civil suit now pending before the courts,” Salgado added.
A television report said Carpio-Morales declined to comment on the Binay camp’s accusation.
LLANESCA T. PANTI