The sell-out of the Iloilo Convention Center, Part 2


It’s been more than two years now since I appeared before the Senate Blue Ribbon committee that looked into the anomalies of the Iloilo Convention Center (or “Icon”). I brought with me a trolley suitcase filled with documents that established the irregularities that took place. But the Liberal Party-dominated Senate didn’t want the truth to come out. Hence, they railroaded the investigation to prevent me from disclosing more.

That didn’t stop me from digging for more evidence. And these last two years yielded a bountiful harvest of documents that proves my case. From the procurement stage (bidding) for the structure until the bidding for the lease, operate and manage (LOM) contract, the Icon was marred by violations of the law at almost every stage.

It is now clear the Icon was conceived and designed by Senator Franklin Drilon as a conduit for one of the biggest public frauds in our nation’s history. It was designed, with the cooperation of other agency officials, to enable Drilon to skim off hundreds of millions of pesos coming from the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).

It started with the idea of Megaworld donating a 1.7-hectare lot in its Iloilo Business Park in the old site of the Iloilo airport in Mandurriao, Iloilo City.

Based on the development plan prepared by Megaworld, the lot that sat between two first-class hotels — Richmonde and Marriot — was clearly intended to be the site for a convention center.

But Megaworld wasn’t then in a hurry to finish the Iloilo Business Park because the business climate didn’t make it feasible as yet. Drilon, however, wanted Megaworld to get things to move faster. The construction of Richmonde was going slow at the time. Clearly, Megaworld wanted the business environment to improve before going full-swing with its development work. Drilon had other ideas.

This was when Drilon broached the idea to Megaworld of a swap: Megaworld will donate the 1.7-hectare land, and the government, through the Department of Tourism and TIEZA, will build a convention center. It was understood that after the Icon is finished, the management contract will be awarded to Megaworld. It was a perfect arrangement. Megaworld would have its convention center at no expense, and have the anchor project to attract more visitors to its Richmonde and Marriot hotels.

How do I prove that the deal was for Megaworld to supposed to have its cake and eat it, too?

On May 5, 2014, TIEZA issued this Notice of Award for the lease, operate and manage the Icon to Megaworld after holding its first public bidding for the contract.

Screenshot NOTICE OF AWARD MEGAWORLD

 

For still unknown reasons, the contract with Megaworld was never perfected. But what this proves is that TIEZA was lying when it said that its previous public biddings all resulted in a failure. The issuance of a notice of award means that a successful bidding was consummated. It means a post-qualification evaluation had been conducted, and the bid submitted by Megaworld was found to be the most responsive bid.

And this shows that all the while, Drilon et al were only engaged in a “moro-moro”. Megaworld was indeed going to operate and manage the Icon. It’s just that the contract was not perfected. I have asked TIEZA Assistant Chief Operating Officer Jetro Nicolas Lozada for a copy of the BAC resolution and other papers to enlighten the public on what happened. In his email two days ago, he said he referred my request to the Special Bids and Awards Committee.

Drilon has a lot of explaining to do. Why did he push for the construction of a convention center far beyond the original construction cost of P200 million and then just agree to have it managed by Megaworld? In effect, Drilon used public funds for a structure that would benefit Megaworld if the plan had stuck to the original script. What was the consideration?

This issue about the Icon is far from dead. It merely hibernated after the Liberal Party forcibly drowned out the truth on November 13, 2014. We will expose every aspect of the anomalous project until the Duterte administration fully understands the magnitude of the corruption committed by Drilon. This is a total waste of public funds which Drilon generously scooped out from the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).

About Manuel "Boy" Mejorada
Manuel "Boy" Mejorada is a journalist and social media activist. A former Iloilo provincial administrator, he is now waging a crusade against corruption and narco-politics.

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