Malacañang on Friday said Senate President Franklin Drilon set a “good example” by subjecting himself to questioning by the Senate committee investigating the Iloilo Convention Center (ICC), and hinted that Vice President Jejomar Binay should follow Drilon’s lead and show up at the chamber to face his detractors.
Binay has refused to attend hearings of the Senate blue ribbon sub-committee, which is looking into allegations that he enriched himself through corruption when he was mayor of Makati City.
Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said Drilon set a good example by allowing the Senate to investigate the ICC project. “He agreed to appear before the hearing, and he inhibited from asking questions [of]the resource persons,” Lacierda told reporters.
“As to whether it would be good for the Vice President to emulate, we will leave it with the Vice President to decide whether he should follow the example of Senate President Frank Drilon,” he said.
Lacierda added that he was “not competent” to reply to questions regarding the charges against Binay, who has been accused of getting kickbacks from the allegedly overpriced Makati City Hall Building 2, among others.
“It will be up to the senators to ask the questions,” he said.
During Thursday’s probe by the blue ribbon committee, Drilon belied claims that the convention center was overpriced as alleged by his former staff, Manuel Mejorada.
He said he will inhibit from the probe but will make himself available to answer questions.
Drilon added that he will submit to the committee his four-page affidavit on the project.
While the Palace put in a good word for Drilon, United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) interim president and Rep. Tobias Tiangco of Navotas City (Metro Manila) said the ICC controversy proved that the Senate President received more funds from the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) than he has admitted.
“I said it before and I will say it again: Senate President Frank Drilon received close to P1 billion in DAP funds from [Budget] Secretary [Florencio] “Butch” Abad. The documents presented during the Senate probe on the ICC as to where the funds were sourced showed that Drilon had P150 million in DAP, and there were more,” Tiangco said on Friday.
The Navotas City congressman noted that the report of Department of Public Works and Highways Secretary Rogelio Singson on the ICC showed that funding totaling P150 million came from DPWH allocation in the national budgets for 2012 and 2013.
The amounts were listed in the memorandum sent by DPWH-6 Western Visayas Regional Director Edilberto Tayao to Singson on November 5.
The letter detailed that P100 million of the funds was sourced from DPWH’s funding under the General Appropriations Act of 2012 (Special Allotment Release Order No. A-12-01294) while P50 million of the funds came from DPWH’s funding under the General Appropriations Act of 2013 (SARO No. A-13-00079).
“He [Drilon] should explain why he only admitted to receiving P100 million for the ICC when, in fact, he gave P150 million for the project. I thought he is all for upholding transparency in the government,” Tiangco said.
Mejorada, the former Iloilo provincial administrator, has filed plunder and graft charges against Drilon, Singson, Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez and other government officials before the Office of the Ombudsman in connection with the ICC project.
Drilon has assured more big ticket projects to Iloilo but cautioned his detractors to be more circumspect in filing administrative and criminal cases against Cabinet secretaries.
In a radio interview after the Senate blue ribbon investigation on Thursday, he said Mejorada admitted he has no evidence to prove overpricing in the construction of the ICC.
The accusations are extremely unfair and a clear case of harassment and concocted lies out to harass the project implementers such as the Cabinet secretaries and the people of Iloilo in a move to stall the development of the province, Drilon added.
The Senate President was instrumental in bringing big development projects in Iloilo, including the new Iloilo Airport in Cabatuan Iloilo, Hall of Justice, 1,600 classrooms in partnership with the Federation of Filipino Chamber of Commerce, Iloilo Esplanade I and II, new river port for roro and fastcraft, expanded diversion road, circumferential road, radial road, Jalandoni Bridge, Drilon Bridge and the expanded Iloilo fishport.
With FERNAN MARASIGAN AND LYDIA C. PENDON