Dec 082014

The Office of the Ombudsman has ordered Senate President Franklin Drilon, Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson, Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez, and seven other public officials and private individuals to answer the accusation of a former Iloilo official on the alleged overpricing of the Iloilo Convention Center.

In a two-page order, Director Mothalib Onos of the Preliminary Investigation and Administrative Adjudication Bureau-E gave the respondents 10 days to answer the allegations made by former Iloilo provincial administrator Manuel Mejorada that they conspired to rig the bidding for the ICC and overpriced it by as much as P500 million.

Also asked to submit a counter-affidavit were TIEZA chief operating officer Mark Lapid, DPWH undersecretaries Jaime Pacanan and Romeo Momo, DPWH regional director Edilberto Tayao and BAC chairman Marilyn H. Celiz.

The architectural firm, W. V. Coscolluela and Associates, represented by its president William V. Coscolluela, and the contractor, Hilmarcs Construction, represented by its president, Efren Canlas, were also asked to reply.

The order was dated November 17 but Mejorada received a copy of it only on December 8. He gave a copy of the order to the media a day after receiving it.

Mejorada filed charges of plunder, malversation of public funds and other criminal offenses in connection with alleged anomalies in the construction of the Iloilo Convention Center.

In a separate order, the Ombudsman gave Singson, Jimenez, Lapid, Pacanan, Momo, Tayao and Celiz 10 days to submit their counter-affidavit to the administrative case for “dishonesty and grave misconduct” docketed as OMB-C-A-14-0317.


“Apparently, the Ombudsman doesn’t think my complaint is a dud. It found sufficient basis in fact and law to proceed with the preliminary investigation without doing its own fact-finding as it has done in most cases,” Mejorada said in a press statement issuedTuesday.

Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago earlier called Mejorada a “big dud” for his failure to present before the Senate blue ribbon committee hearing in November sufficient evidence on his allegations.

In a complaint filed on October 29, 2014, Mejorada said the respondents had conspired to raise the contract price for the ICC to as much as P747 million even when its construction cost could not go above P300 million.

Mejorada cited public statements made by Drilon in which he placed the construction cost at P300 million in April 2012, then P450 million in November 2012, and in two occasions this year, as much as P1 billion.

In his testimony before the blue ribbon committee on Nov. 13, 2014, Singson said the construction cost of the ICC at present is pegged at P747 million.

Last week, Mejorada submitted documents to the Senate committee to prove that the ICC was only going to cost P200 million, including a certified copy of the deed of donation between Megaworld Corporation and the Department of Tourism.

“The deed of donation is the smoking gun,” Mejorada said. “The issues of overpricing and rigging will revolve around this one document,” he added. Amita Legaspi/RSJ, GMA News

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