The camp of Vice President Jejomar Binay on Wednesday challenged Sen. Antonio Trillanes 4th to explain the lawmaker’s hiring of “overpriced” consultants, including his brother, who received almost P500,000 last year.
In a statement, Binay said Trillanes’ brother, Juan Antonio Trillanes, got about P71,200 a month in six months last year, making him one of the most highly paid consultants in Trillanes’ roster.
The senator hired a total of 55 consultants and paid P7.5 million in fees, according to Senate documents.
That amount is P4.46 million more than the P3.04 million allotted for hiring consultants.
Rico Quicho, a lawyer and Binay’s spokesman on political affairs, said Trillanes “should not be too onion-skinned if the people demand that he explain such exorbitant expense for his consultants.”
The consultants, Quicho noted, have no “solid credentials,” and they could not even be found in Google or LinkedIn, a site used by professionals for networking.
He said consultants who receive P71,200 a month should have credentials enough worthy to be mentioned on search engines.
Quicho alleged that Trillanes is not transparent and he lacks accountability for his actions.
“If the consultancy fees cannot be justified, then we cannot help but conclude his consultants were overpriced,” he said.
Trillanes “must be reminded that his bullying is never a substitute to proper reasoning,” Quicho added.
The Senate documents also showed that the senator spent P1.25 million monthly to pay 55 consultants.
This is double the budget allocation for consultancy services for a senator’s office, which is P506,262 a month.
While the senator’s brother got P71,200 monthly consultant’s fee, a consultant named Eddie Ybanez on the list only received P3,500 a month, Quicho said.
COA already sent a memorandum to Senate President Franklin Drilon, asking him to account for the P231.88 million spent on Senate consultants in 2014.
In the memorandum, supervising auditor Mario Lipana noted that several senators spent more than the allotted amount for consultants’ fees.
COA said, “Analysis of subsidiary ledger account consultancy services, which mostly consists of expenses for consultancy services of different offices of senators, reveals that there were several senators’ offices that exceed the budgetary allocations.”
It apparently found out that the reason for exceeding budgetary allocation was the hiring of many consultants, in Trillanes’ case, more than 60 consultants.
Some consultants also receive P94,000 a month, COA said.
Among Trillanes’ “overpriced” consultants are Segundino Orfiano Jr., Ian Lee Punongbayan, Jayme Torrato, Sherwin Sanusie and Sonny Madarang.
According to Binay’s camp, the consultants did not provide accomplishment reports as required by COA rules.
There were also no resumes or other documentary information on the consultants to show they are qualified to be hired as consultants, COA said in its report.
The kind of work the consultants did could not be determined, the state auditor added, as their services were considered “confidential in nature.”
“Hence, the importance or indispensability of hiring consultants could not be determined,” it said.
COA required the Senate to explain or justify the “sudden increase of expenses for consultancy services.”
It asked Drilon, for example, to explain why consultancy fees paid by his office continuously increased from P147.57 million in 2012, P188.96 million in 2013 and P231.88 million in 2014.