The Office of the Ombudsman said it has found probable cause for the filing of multiple charges of graft, corruption, malversation and falsification of documents against Vice President Jejomar Binay, Makati Mayor Jejomar “Junjun” Erwin Binay Jr. and 22 others in the Makati City Hall Building 2 project case.
The case alleges anomalous bidding and construction of the Makati City Hall Building 2 project undertaken from 2007 to 2013, according to the Field Investigation Office of Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales.
Maria Janina Hidalgo, spokesman for the office, said while the charges against the younger Binay and 22 others were ordered to be filed immediately, the case against the elder Binay will have to be filed after the end of his term as Vice President.
“Yes, right now, he is immune from charges. So we will have to wait until the end of his term, ” Hidalgo added.
“If the VP [Vice President] Binay wins in the coming elections, we will, likewise, have to wait for another six years before we can file a case against him,” she told reporters.
The Binay camp again questioned the timing of the Ombudsman’s decision.
Binay’s spokesman, Joey Salgado, said the Office of the Ombudsman announced its ruling on the day Binay filed his certificate of candidacy for President, together with his running mate, Sen. Gringo Honasan.
He dismissed the ruling as part of a “perception war” to ruin Binay’s chances of winning, saying the Ombudsman is well aware that Binay, being an impeachable official, enjoys immunity from suit.
Salgado said the Office of the Ombudsman could have just waited for Binay’s term to end next year before the charges were filed.
Binay’s political affairs spokesman Rico Quicho, said they have already received a copy of the Ombudsman’s order recommending the charges.
Quicho noted that the order has no basis as it was based on the “lies” that came out in the investigation by the Senate blue ribbon sub-committee on the alleged anomalies being linked to the Binay family.
The finding of probable cause comes after more than a year of investigation.
“The process was not rushed. What our countrymen should know is that the investigation started September 15, 2014 and that means it has been over a year since this matter was investigated. It just so happened that the results were released today because this is a matter of national concern that people have to be aware of considering that the elections are coming up and, of course, people have to know, as part of the mandate of the Office of the Ombudsman to inform the country,” Morales said.
The fact-finding investigation began in September 2014 while the preliminary investigation began in March 2015.
The Vice President faces four counts of graft, six counts of falsification of public documents and one count of malversation for his involvement in phases 1 and 2 of the building project.
In two separate resolutions on six cases, flagrant anomalies were found to have been committed by the respondents in the design and construction of the building consisting of six phases.
Documents show that Vice President Binay and Mayor Binay approved the Bids and Awards Committee 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 Binay “being an impeachable officer does not insulate him from investigation.”
The Ombudsman added that the Vice President is being investigated for criminal acts committed while he was a city mayor, not as Vice President.
“At all events, impeachable officers, like Binay, are within the investigatory power or jurisdiction of this Office,” an Ombudsman resolution said
The cases, however, 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 case filed with the courts which carries the penalty of removal from office.
Mayor Binay faces four counts of graft, 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 3rd, 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).
Services of MANA were engaged without the benefit of public bidding.
Documents established fraud committed by the respondents in manipulating procurement to ensure award of the contract to MANA; processing and approving a series of four payments totaling to P11.97 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 Republic Act 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 only 11 days to complete the procurement process for the multi-million peso infrastructure project.
The Ombudsman said “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 the Government Procurement Act.
The resolutions said 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 “the existence of conspiracy among respondents is evident from the chain of events and as shown by the evidence on record.”
On Oct. 9, 2015, the Ombudsman ordered 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. With PNA