Iloilo–Corruption capital of the Philippines?

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The corruption in Iloilo City has reached the national consciousness with the apparent anomalies in the construction of its controversial convention center. Charged with Plunder in the Office of the Ombudsman are the honorable Senate President Franklin Drilon, DPWH Secretary Rogelio Singson, DoT Secretary Ramon Jimenez, among others.

The complaint is on the alleged overpricing of the P700 Million Iloilo Convention Center (ICC) that will host the forthcoming 2015 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum. The complainant is Manuel Mejorada, former provincial administrator of Iloilo and a well-known crusading print and broadcast journalist in Iloilo, who has filed his fourth case against Senator Drilon with the Ombudsman since last year.

The project cost of the ICC started with only P300 Million in April 2013 and later increased to P450 Million five months later in September.

DPWH Secretary Singson explained to Ms. Karen Davila at ANC’s Headstart that DPWH was able to get an additional P200 Million from the Department of Budget & Management (DBM). However, Mr.
Singson claims ignorance when asked about the source of funds.


Secretary Singson said that when DPWH receives the Special Allotment Release Order (SARO) from the Department of Budget & Management (DBM), it did not indicate the source of funds. This hard to believe because the SARO is the” document issued by the DBM that triggers the release of funds for lump-sum items, such as the Priority Development Acceleration Fund (PDAF) or pork.” (Source: PCIJ)
From P450 Million or P500 Million, the project cost went up again to P700 Million because the DPWH was able to once again obtain an additional P200 Million from the DBM. This explains why the ICC has two contracts: Phase I for P492 Million and Phase II for P187.6 Million.

Hence, it becomes obvious that the project cost of the ICC was really flexible depending on the public funds that Senator Drilon could get like the P100 Million from the despicable DAP that was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

It did stop with P700 Million because Senate President Drilon, the native son of Iloilo, described the ICC as a “P1.0 Billion project” last February during the Dinagyan Festival in Iloilo City. It is rather curious why the project cost of the ICC kept on escalating when its design has not changed! Speaking of the avowed policy of “Transparency & Accountability” of the Aquino administration with its Daang Matuwid!

The main issue on the P488 Million overprice of the controversial convention center is on the total floor area. The computation in the complaint is that it would only cost P192 Million to build the ICC based on the floor area of 6,400 square meters (sqms) at the cost of P30,000.00 per sqm. Thus, Mr. Mejorada, the complainant, believes that the convention center is already overpriced even at the original project cost of P300 Million.

Mr. Mejorada further claims that Senator Drilon used the same figure of P30,000 per sqm as “the industry standard” even for first class buildings like five-star hotels. DPWH Secretary Singson confirmed the same “industry standard” costing in an interview with Ms Sandra Aguinaldo of GMA 7 TV News a few days before the case was filed. Mr. Singson also acknowledged that the SMX in the Mall of Asia cost only P26,000 per sqm.

The DPWH Secretary explained that the costings in the private sector cannot be compared to the government contracts and tacitly admitted that DWPH projects do cost more. He said the same thing when interviewed by Ms. Karen Davila in ANC’s Headstart TV program last Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2014. Secretary Singson now says that the cost is P60,000.00 to P65,000.00 per sqm or DOUBLE the P30,000.00 per sqm “industry standard.”

It now appears that Senator Drilon and Secretary Singson have been talking lately on the plunder complaint filed against them with the Office of the Ombudsman. They are both citing the figure of 11,6000 sqms as the total floor area of the ICC and that the 6,400 sqms floor area used in the complaint against them is all wrong. However, it seems that the communication between the DPWH and the Senate President is not well-coordinated.

The Facebook webpage of Hilmarc Construction Corporation, the contractor of the controversial Iloilo Convention Center, states that the floor area of the ICC is 6,400 sqms, as filed in the complaint, and NOT 11,600 sqms as Senate President Drilon claimed when interviewed by media on the day the Plunder case was filed against him.

DPWH Secretary Rogelio “Babes” Singson likewise told Ms. Karen Davila at ANC’s TV program that the floor area is indeed 11,600 sqms, which is inconsistent with the 6,400 sqms stated in the webpage of their own DPWH contractor. There is a Big Difference of 5,200 sqms between 11,600 sqms and 6,400 sqms.

DPWH Secretary Singson justifies the increase in floor area by saying that the ICC is “equivalent to seven floors” due to its ceiling height. His statement exposes his IGNORANCE to building construction. You cannot enlarge the floor area just because of the high ceiling height.

There is no additional construction cost for what is occupied by air! Because there are NO beams, flooring and partitions. At most the increased costs are in the taller posts, columns and walls.

Senate President Drilon also tried to justify the obscene overprice by saying the convention center is equivalent to “five floors.” The estimate of Senator Drilon, a lawyer who admits that he is not a “technical” person, seems more realistic to the claim of the DPWH secretary that the ICC is “equivalent to seven floors.”

The multi-billion public infrastructure projects in Iloilo province are known to be obscenely overpriced from the P8.8 Billion Iloilo Airport to the P1.9 Billion Iloilo Circumferential Road. Then there is also the P296 Million road-widening project (with wide sidewalks) of the Sen. Benigno Aquino, Jr. Avenue that is only 1.2 kms in length and the P82 Million Esplanade promenade project along the Iloilo River.

All these projects were initiated by and identified with Senate President Drilon. Iloilo City Congressman Jerry Treñas also has his P50 Million Dungon Bridge project where the existing bridge in good working condition was shamelessly demolished. Then there is also the Iloilo City Hall that cost over P800 Million or more than four times the Bacolod City Hall even if the population of the latter is more than the former.

If Iloilo is the “Corruption Capital of the Philippines” and its top elected officials—from senator to congressman and mayor—belong to the ruling Liberal Party, then what does it say about the avowed Daang Matuwid of President Benigno Aquino 3rd?

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47 Comments

  1. Anna L. Marquez on

    There seem to be a lot of anomalies surrounding the construction of the Convention Center in Iloilo, but for sure it will not garner the same “interest” in the Senate the way the Makati buildings did. It all boils down to political alliances.

    • Blake Rodriguez on

      Exaclty. The LP members are enjoying their run for now, knowing that with Aquino is position they are untouchable!

  2. >>> Filipino People of the Philippines !!!! news readers and bloggers likes so much to react. That’s why the real issue was not tackled and discussed constructively and informatively. They like very much commenting on comment and commented, commented ,etc.
    But, Filipino people of the Philippines !!!!! For those defending and /or pretending that they know the real issue, I would say you just fooling yourself enough.
    Lastly, for your information … in all government department or agencies that coould be considered “PUGAD O MINAHAN NG CORRUPTION AT SCAM ….ay ang DPWH, DSWD at DAR.

  3. Makes one wonder whether this journalist had ever set foot on Iloilo’s soil. If you come and visit Iloilo today, the transformation is awe-inspiring and the developments are as far as one’s eyes could see. For far too long, the whole of the Philippines had suffered from sudstandard infrastructures. Corruption capital of the Philippines?Iloilo? Come again? I beg your pardon, but there are plenty of places in the Philippines that are far more corrupt than Iloilo and because of the high impact projects that Iloilo is getting right now, you cannot argue the fact that other cities and provinces are clamouring to get their share of the pie. Because of who initiated these projects and tinge of jealousy from other places that couldn’t even build a decent pavement let alone a world class convention centre, the attacks come from every corner imaginable. Come on Philippines and get your acts together. Get your own leaders to build you a decent infrastucture and let these non sense attacks against Iloilo and its leaders come to a complete stop!

    • Julio of Cuenca, Batangas on

      There are factors that make this project ICC full of loopholes in its transformation from an acceptable budgeted structure to its extra-ordinary & baptized as most corrupted structure in the archipelago.

      The two main players (stooges) Drilon & Babe Singson, doesn’t sing the same tune on their “Swan Song”. Their computations and revelations doesn’t jive. The Senator is declaring values/cost after he took his loot, excusing the cost inconsistency because he’s not a technical person while the Secretary of DPWH is pretending to be a technical guy even though he is NOT an engineer or architect that’s why he “booboo” in floor area cost.

      The contractor have already admitted in his presented cost estimate the building costs even though it’s already jacked-up “Fro the Boys” which is quite normal in the corrupted means of transacting government projects.

      Out of these scenario that supposedly all players are on the same page and in synchrony in their tunes, tend to be out-of-tune as revealed in media, it’s by far from their own words the project is the most overpriced (maybe 5x) government project by far…Supposedly they’re smart people, but they’re caught lying in public…Sadly we always can say that, “Fishes are always caught in their own mouth”..Sayonara corrupt government officials.

    • The journalist has visited Iloilo about 30 times in the past 32 years since 1982. He is married to an Ilongga whose family is prominent is Iloiilo. Their ancestral house in Jaro is almost an acre (4,000 sqms).

      The “transformation” in Iloilo with its public infra comes at a very high price of corruption from its P8.8 billion Iloilo airport to its P1.9 Billion Circumferential Road. The P296 million road-widening project along the Sen.Benigno Aquino Jr, Highway (Diversion Road) is obscenely overpriced since its length is only 1.2 kms,

      Anyone who is not aware of the unbridled corruption in Iloilo must either be Supremely Ignorant or in Denial living in their own world. They probably do not even know the corruption worth hundreds of millions in the two modular steel bridges along J. Luna Road under the President Bridges Program (PBP) that was exposed by Sen. Sergio Osmeña III and probed by Senate Blue Ribbon Committee.

    • Masyado kasing controversial yung title Mr. writer. Why include a “CAPITAL” word. With all due respect, nagiging subjective yung dating. Diversion road is not 1.2 kms ang development. Baka ang ibig nyo pong sabihin yung River esplanade na 1.2 kms na isang project sa kasama pagrehabilitate ng Ilog which is daming investors ngayon ang pumapasok dahil sa efforts ng leaders sa Iloilo. Attend ka sa council where they present and deliberate all the developments and projects. That way naging transparent sa lahat ng sector ang projects. Dapat sana manirahan ka muna doon para malaman talaga kung bakit justifiable ang mga proyekto na pinapasok sa isang lugar.

    • What did you say on

      The 296-M budget for Diversion expansion is not 1.2km as this writer claims. It extends from Diversion Bridge (not, the bridge was expanded from 4 to 8 lanes), all the way to El 98, which is 3 km. But note that this budget includes the linear park, the burying of electric lines, lamposts, 2 overpasses, one underpass, and bike lanes, plus the construction of a 2 lane service road.

      I agree though that the ILO Airport does smell fishy, as is with all things GMA did.

  4. “The DPWH Secretary explained that the costings in the private sector cannot be compared to the government contracts and tacitly admitted that DWPH projects do cost more.”

    – This is also the same explanation by Hilamrc on the Makati City Hall 2 Project that the persecutors refuse to accept. The keep on comparing private and govt projects.

    – Will they now accept this explanation once Singson testify in the Senate?

    • DPWH Secretary SIngson will be very hot water when he testifies in the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee. All his inconsistencies will come out and will just expose his ignorance of construction matters. You begin to wonder why he was appointed in the first place as DPWH Secretary. But as they say, you must be first Stupid first like your boss before you can join his Cabinet.

    • As far as I understand, it is not sec singson who could really explain the very details of Iloilo Convention Project. Let the engineers and the budget planners explain. Sec. Singson has so much work other than the ICC Project. Don’t be stupid on your arguments.

  5. Vicente Penetrante on

    Part of the “LP rackets” mentioned by Jarius Bondoc. Like the DOTC on the MRT3, “corrupt contracting is business as usual” for the LP. Good that some insiders cannot stomach unsound practices!

  6. Crab mentality talaga. Kung may progreso hinhatak pababa. Kaya tayong mga Pilipino namumuhay nalang palagi sa ganitong sistema.

    • The simple issue is on the overpricing of the Iloilo Convention Center. Nothing to do with crabs, oysters or lobsters.

    • Julio of Cuenca, Batangas on

      When people take advantage of airing their complaint because of the irregularities in spending peoples money, that should not be considered as “crab mentality”.

      In general, the people’s perception give more weight to the crabs because these crawling crustacean knew how to think, but the self declared righteous and thinker of the society cant even do their basic mathematics correctly. The pluses & minuses w/ multiplication doesn’t jive.

      At least give some respect to CRABS, they provide us with expensive and delicious crab meat.

  7. calling senator santiago. she hails from iloilo and prudence dictates that she makes an effort to clean up the image of her beloved province… she is after all against corruption, so she says!

    • miriam santiago is not as clean as she projects herself in public. in her closet are skeletons waiting to jump out if she tries to again to seek the presidency.

    • Yes, Senator Santiago should take the lead. Unfortunately, she has not in spite of the fact that InfraWatch has apprized her of the anomalies in DPWH projects in Iloilo in more than half a dozen letters. There was No Reply to the letters of InfraWatch.

  8. Mr. Ramos. This is irresponsible and insentitive journalism to say the least. Why would you brand Iloilo as – the capital of corruption? This is insult to millions of Illongos who are working hard and going abou their lives honestly.This are serious allegations not only to the three government officials but to millions of Ilonggos! This definitely need investigations to include you Mr. Ramos.

    • Read the title. There is a question mark. Technically, no doubt, he is in query. Going back to the basics of English, what does a sentence with question mark means? The last paragraph mentioned “if”. There was no pinpointing. The question is thrown to the public to determine by themselves thru data given. And don’t ever mention journalism if you haven’t lived with it. Thanks!

    • It is not a reflection on the Ilongos. It simply suggests that national officials from Iloilo are corrupt led by Franklin Drilon with his overpriced Iloilo Convention Center. Ilongos are the victims here not the accused.

    • I agree with victorts that is NOT a reflection of the Ilonggos. I wrote the article and I am married to an Ilongga. In fact, it is my own wife who encouraged me to expose the anomalies in Iloilo. Yes, the Ilonggos – and the Filipino people as whole – are the “VICTIMS.”

    • Eh sino ba nag-umpisang sumulat na “Iloilo Corruption Capital”? eh ikaw din Mr. writer di ba. Tapos sabihin mo hindi reflection ito sa mga Ilonggos? Parang Ikinahihiya mo pa. Isipin mo asawa mo. Nkakahiya din sa supporters ni Mejorada na mga ilonngo na masaya pa silang tawagin na birds nest o corruption capital ang province nila. As an ilonggo, naapektuhan kami. Dahil lang ito sa alitan ni Mejorada at Drilon. Wala kaming pakialam kung ano alitan nila. Pero sana respetuhin mo din ang mga Ilonggo Mr. writer. Kung talagang fair ka sumulat, panindigan mo.

  9. P. Akialamiro@yahoo.com on

    I only hope these show cases of corruption will always remind people about the officials involved and these will not be put at the back burners…no stopping until all these corrupt officials are put to jail.

  10. Let us make a stand!

    Make your act be a start for a BETTER Iloilo City!
    The Drilon controversy is just the tip of the iceberg. There are several equally controversial but quieter issues of graft and corruption hounding Iloilo City alluding to the different LP politicians lording over the city (the “honorables”).
    1. The unaccounted 8.5 Billion City hall funds identified by COA from 2002 to 2010 under the regime of then mayor now congressman. Earnings were better then with no PDAF now. The old position seems more appealing, I’ve heard.
    2. The “White Elephant” Pavia Housing project. Are there any buyers?
    3. The overpriced City Hall. Our own version of Makati controversy.
    4. Hiring of unnecessary EA’s, casual and ghost city hall employees more than 7,000 strong which is milking the city budget dry, hence, there is less and less money for basic services. The irony is City Hall has all the funds to pay for this redundant and mostly unnecessary manpower but have not enough funds to pay for electric power-PECO.
    5. The proliferation of drugs and narcopolitics. Known drug personalities are openly rubbing elbows with our local leaders and the “lords” themselves are government officials.
    6. The Esplanade. Is it really more important than a City College or City Hospital or even additional school buildings around the City?
    7. The Hall of Justice building. Earthquake earthquake go away. We might lose all our lawyers and judges in just one day. Another Legacy of the “good” senator to his “compañeros”.
    8. The Iloilo city convention center. A soon to be White Elephant after APEC.
    9. Have you noticed? Most local officials used to live in modest houses prior to their joining the government but now after so many years in office they live in Mansions, some by the Iloilo river with a view. From nothing to everything. Just asking.

    I guess, Iloilo city is a big business for the “MATUWID NA DAAN”. Let the real “TRUTH” set us all free. Let us not be content…

  11. Hoy kayong mga kurap sa senado, kongreso man o gobyerno pati na pribado ikukulong ko kayong lahat lintek na…..buta na humihirit pa

    • How true with VP Binay and Senate President Drilon! They were very close to the late President Cory Aquino!

  12. muriel magtanggol on

    Grabe! Bakit ganyan ang mga ally ni Noynoy? Alam niya yan! Alam din ng nanay niya…look at Drilon, Binay, mga bata ni Cory!

    • Comes close to Iolilo. Big Difference in Makati is the corruption in issuing Business Permits. The Binays are known to get several condo units in bldgs being built in Makati. But it came to a point and time when the Binays have too many condo units that they preferred Cash.

  13. Jose A. Oliveros on

    The construction of the new Iloilo Airport ballooned because there was a stop-over at the Senate when Drilon was the Senate President. This was a joke I heard many years ago but to some people, that was true because they knew what the joke really meant. So one wonders why construction cost of public works projects in Iloilo always escalate whenever Drilon is Senate President? Your guess is as good as mine.

  14. Drill on has been spending his PDAF funds since he became Senator on various projects such as schoolhouses, market place, sports center in Iloilo only. I wonder if his total PDAF and dap fufunds of 200million a year or 4billion for 20 years were all went. There must be a favorite project contractor doing these projects for commissions. Drilon has no other source of income so…….

    • A senator receives P200 Million per year in pork barrel. Drilon has been a senator for the past 15 years (1995-2007 and 2010-2013). His total pork is at least P2.0 Billion since the pork of Congress was Less in the earlier years in the 1990s.

  15. Is it not ironic on your part that given a chance you took hook line and sinker and declared ILOILO as corruption capital of the Philippines, shame on you! How about corruptions in Makati? Until now your favorite candidate to the highest position of the land is still not answering the issue of corruption against him. No wonder you want to deviate the attention to ILOILO.

    • go to PDI and PhilStar, you will be flooded with all sort of news articles and blogs about binay’s corruption that is more than enough to overfill and burst your stomach and lungs!

    • That you, Ed. The PDI (Inquirer) and the Philippine STAR have so many stories and commentaries on the corruoption of VP Binay when he was Mayor of Makati,

      I have no candidate for president because I am an advocate for the Shift to the Parliamentary system in the past 25 years since 1989.

      The line that the complaint of Plunder against Senate President Frank Drilon filed with the Office of the Ombudsman was done to shift the attention from VP Binay is the propaganda of the Liberal Party and its leaders. They cab do better than that. Pathetic!

  16. Rene L. Canlas on

    Very well said Mr. Rick Ramos..your article should be included in the complaint with the Ombudsman..

  17. You hit the nail on the head Sir! Nag re..revolution na mga ti yan namin sa gutom! Bayan ko gumising ka!

    • Meredith Pacheco on

      These politicos are the worst kind of thieves. They keep getting more for themselves at the expense of the poor and the needy. Time for change, indeed — REAL change, not the meaningless kind that the President promised but never delivered.

    • russell sugian on

      napakaraming pilipino ang ubod ng tanga sa pagboto sa mga taong ito..nakakahiya na maging pilipino.