A plunder complaint was filed on Wednesday before the Office of the Ombudsman against Senate President Franklin Drilon in connection with the allegedly overpriced construction of the Iloilo Convention Center.
Former Iloilo Provincial Administrator Manuel Mejorada filed the complaint that also included graft, malversation and violation of the Procurement Law.
Named as respondents with Drilon were senior Cabinet members Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Secretary Rogelio Singson and Department of Tourism (DOT) Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr.
Mejorada also included DPWH Undersecretaries Jaime Pacanan and Romeo Momo; DPWH Region VI Director Edilberto Tayao; DPWH Region VI Bids and Awards Commitee Marilyn Celiz; and Mark Lapid, Chief Operating Officer of the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA); Hilmarcs Construction Co. represented by its president, Efren Canlas; and W.V. Coscoluella and Associates represented by its president, William Coscolluella.
Mejorada also filed administrative charges of dishonesty and grave misconduct against the government officials in his complaint.
He said the respondents conspired to pad the construction cost of the convention center.
Once completed, the center with a total floor area of 6,400 square meters, will be overpriced by P487,851,740.53, or P106,226 per square meter, Mejorada added.
“By any language, that is an overpriced contract cost for the completion of this building, which, computed at the industry standard of P30,000 per square meter, should only have cost not more than P192,000,000,” he said.
“The overprice for the project is glaring, because just across the street stands the 12-story Richmonde Hotel of Megaworld. This grand edifice, complete with world-class furniture and fixtures that go with a five-star hotel, cost only P500,000,000,” Mejorada said.
He pointed out that the SM Mall of Asia SMX Convention Center cost P26,400 per square meter, which is within the industry standard of P30,000 per square meter.
Mejorada pointed to Drilon as the proponent of the project because he “pushed” for the funding of the contract from his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).
Because the project is his “baby,” the senator “must be held accountable for the loss of P488 million from the coffers of the government. He is presumed to have harvested the fruits of the anomalous expenditures way above what can be considered reasonable for the construction of the project,” the complainant said.
The other respondents “merely carried out his every wish and command. Indeed, who would dare displease the architect of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), the third highest elected official of the country?” Mejorada said.
He described the award of the building contract to Hilmarcs as illegal, and the bidding as “infirm, invalid and violative of Procurement Law and its implementing rules and regulations.”
W.V. Coscolluela and Associates, a consultancy firm, was hired allegedly without public bidding, Mejorada said.
“It was a high-level conspiracy involving the project proponent and key Cabinet secretaries in the government, and their subordinate officials, in cahoots with the private respondents,” he added.
Drilon also on Wednesday branded as baseless and malicious the latest plunder compliant filed against him by his former consultant before the Office of the Ombudsman in connection with the supposed
overpricing on construction of the Iloilo Convention Center.
He said Mejorada is only trying to get back at him after he refused to renew the latter’s contract as his consultant in 2011.
According to the senator, he decided to let go of Mejorada after learning that he has been using Drilon’s social media account to attack politicians in Iloilo and attribute it to the senator.