Tell all on Dengvaxia, Dr. Janette Garin

Former DOH Secretary Janette Garin tried to inject a dose of dramatics into her scheduled appearance before the joint hearings of the Senate blue ribbon, finance, health and demographics committees this morning and testify on what transpired in the P3.5 billion purchase of Dengvaxia vaccines a little less than two years ago.Janette Garin

On Friday, Garin checked into a private hospital in Tacloban City after she supposedly felt acute abdominal pain. Her doctors diagnosed her as suffering from acute appendicitis, her chief of staff said. But Garin, whose husband Oscar Richard Jr. is the incumbent congressman of the 1st district of Iloilo, has asked her doctors to postpone surgery so she could attend the hearing.

It will be a tough morning for Garin at the Senate should she really attend despite her supposed condition. There is a storm of public condemnation against her and former President Noynoy Aquino over their rushed procurement and implementation of the vaccination program despite strong objections by experts. Several lies told by Garin have also been exposed. For instance, she denied having met with Sanofi Pasteur company officials when she visited Paris two years ago. She had to recant and admit it when ABS-CBN reported on a DFA dispatch detailing the meeting.

Emerging facts support insinuations that the transaction is bursting at the seams with corruption. My sources estimate that the kickbacks could run into more than a billion pesos, definitely making it one of the biggest single corruption cases in our history. But this corruption is only secondary to the possible health hazards from the administration of the vaccine on Filipino children from the age of 9 and up. This is already being described as an act of genocide.

Garin should confess to the truth. She should not blame ex-President Aquino because it is clear the transaction was hers. Aquino himself cannot completely wash his hands. He showed his incompetence and naivete in allowing politics to dictate on decisions even though there was sufficient warning on the adverse effects it might have on the children.

Sweetheart deal

Anytime soon — if it hasn’t happened yet — the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA) will award the management contract for the soon-to-be-finished Iloilo Convention Center at the Iloilo Business Park of Megaworld Corp. in Mandurriao, Iloilo City.

The management of the ICC, which is expected to be finished at a “reduced” budget of P679 million by late June this year, is one of the conditions set by Megaworld when it donated the 1.7-hectare lot to the Department of Tourism as site of the facility.

And guess who will be the ultimate contractor to manage the ICC?

No other than Megaworld Corporation.

It will be a classic case of Megaworld having its cake and getting to eat it, too. It donated land which it bought at P2,500 per sqm. between two of its five-star hotels, Richmonde Hotel and Marriot Inn. Its act of “generosity” will reap enormous returns because it will now have a convention center at no cost to the company.

This was made possible, of course, by its benefactor, Senate President Franklin Drilon, who packaged the transaction that would cost the national government a whooping P679 million! It is a scam that is not likely to be investigated in earnest until a new administration comes along. As it is, Drilon enjoys the full protection of the “matuwid na daan” President, Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III.

But no matter how Drilon tries to deodorize the transaction, it is so rotten that its stink could be smelled as far away as Boracay, where I am writing this piece. Quite a number of people I met here groaned in dismay when the conversation turned to the ICC. That’s because the construction boom in Boracay hasn’t abated, and businessmen here know what it costs to build huge hotels and resorts. One businessman told me, “With that amount, I could have built a convention center with a five-star hotel.”

Hence, Megaworld will get the better end of the bargain when the ICC is completed, one that will be the envy of other big developers like SM and Ayala. It gave DOT a design for the ICC and it is getting it at no cost. All it needs to do is making a semblance of giving government a share of the income. With the ICC, it can market its two five-star hotels as venue for large national and international conventions. It is being handed over by the DOT on a silver platter.

The graft cases I filed against Drilon et al are now in the final evaluation stage in the Ombudsman. Am I confident that the Ombudsman will hold the principal characters culpable for the litany of violations of the government procurement law and anti-graft and corrupt practices act? Ultimately, the Ombudsman will be compelled to charge them. But maybe not soon enough. The Ombudsman is pre-occupied with running after the Binays.

The facts, and the law, are on my side. That’s the reason I can confidently say the Ombudsman will ultimately indict the respondents. The violations of law and policy are so glaring, and the defenses put up by the respondents have been weak. Most of them attacked me for supposedly saying I had no evidence when I appeared before the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee four months ago. Unfortunately for them, it’s not what I said that matters to the Ombudsman. It’s the evidence on the record.

In this case, I was able to turn the table around and used their own documentary evidence against them. This is the beauty of the law. Innocent-looking documents submitted by your opponents can prove more lethal to them. I take great pride in waging this battle because I was pitted against the best lawyers in the country. For a non-lawyer, it flatters me to be able to cause seasoned lawyers consternation and great labor.

There’s nothing I can do to stop the transaction. Drilon, in his speech during the Dinagyang, arrogantly boasted that no Ilonggo can derail his pet project. Of course, it wasn’t the project that I intended to stop. It was the wanton plunder that took place in the guise of implementing the project.

I am now just awaiting the Regional Trial Court of Pasay City to set my arraignment on the four counts of libel that Drilon filed against me. Facing Drilon’s libel charges against me is the greatest challenge ever to confront me. But I am not afraid. I know I am in the right. In the end, truth will triumph, and justice will be mine.

ICC a monumental fraud using DAP funds – Mejorada

Phase I ICC

PRESS RELEASE

The Supreme Court ruling upholding the unconstitutionality of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) sets the stage for the prosecution of Senate President Franklin Drilon for deliberately pushing for “augmentation” in the hundreds of millions of pesos for a project that wasn’t on the General Appropriations Act (GAA), former Iloilo provincial administrator Manuel Mejorada said.

In a statement following the announcement of the SC ruling, Mejorada said the Iloilo Convention Center was a project of the Department of Tourism (DOT) through the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA) using the latter’s corporate funds.

Describing the ICC as “a monumental fraud”, Mejorada said Drilon used his clout and influence to secure the release of P300 million in DAP funds for phase I of the project despite his knowledge that there was no item in the GAA for 2012 and 2013 to augment in the first place.

Mejorada said the SC ruling strengthens his plunder case against Drilon for being the proponent of the release of P300 million in DAP funds for the ICC.

On January 26, Mejorada submitted to the Ombudsman his reply-affidavit to refute the “lame excuses” given by Drilon and his co-respondents in his complaint for plunder, malversation of public funds, perjury, dishonesty and grave misconduct.

“There’s no more dispute that Drilon is the proponent for the release of the DAP funds as he had admitted it during the Blue Ribbon Committee hearing on the issue last Nov. 13,” Mejorada said.

He expressed confidence that the Ombudsman will find probable cause and indict Drilon, DPWH secretary Rogelio Singson, DOT secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr., TIEZA chief Mark Lapid, DPWH Usecs Romeo Momo and Jaime Pacanan, DPWH regional director Edilberto Tayao and BAC chairman Marily Celiz.

Mejorada said the ICC is riddled with violations of RA 9184 and other laws, including RA 8974 that governs the acquisition of private property for right-of-way and sites for infrastructure projects.

“The number one violation is the Deed of Donation (between Megaworld and DOT) over the 1.7-hectare property on which the ICC is being constructed,” he said.

He said the implementing rules and regulations for RA 8974 stipulates that donations of land for ROW and sites for government infrastructure projects should be unconditional.

In the Deed of Donation, Megaworld required DOT to use the property as site for a convention center and allocate P200 million to build the same. It also imposed the condition that DOT use its proposed conceptual design for the project.

Mejorada insisted that the Deed of Donation set the funding parameters for the ICC.

“It is crystal clear that Megaworld had calculated it would cost DOT only P200 million to build the ICC based on the proposed conceptual design it provided,” Mejorada said.

Mejorada also pointed out that the architectural firm of William V. Coscolluela and Associates, did not have a contract to serve as consultant for the DOT. Because of this, it had no legal personality to prepare the building plans for the government and review the technical bid proposal of Hilmarc’s, he added.

One of the most serious breaches of the government procurement reform law was the admission of Coscolluela that he allowed Hilmarc’s to revise its value engineering proposal after it was submitted to DOT for review and approval, he said.

“This violates the pass/fail criteria in RA 9184 because proposals cannot be revised, altered or revised once these are submitted to the procuring entity for evaluation,” he said.

Mejorada reiterated his motion filed with the Ombudsman to place Singson, Jimenez and the other public respondents under preventive suspension while the preliminary investigation of the case is on-going. (30)

OPEN LETTER TO SENATOR T.G. GUINGONA III

Sir:

“Reject all forms of corruption that diverts resources from the poor.”

Those words were heard all across the nation from Pope Francis during his visit to the Malacanang Palace last Friday and reported extensively in mainstream and social media in the days afterwards.

I believe these words become more relevant to the work of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee which you chair.

On November 13, 2014, the Blue Ribbon Committee opened its investigation in aid of legislation into the alleged overpricing and other anomalies in the construction of the Iloilo Convention Center.

I believe it is the supreme duty of the Blue Ribbon Committee to pursue this investigation with a deeper sense of purpose and objectivity. The hearing on November 13, 2o14 barely scratched the surface of the anomalous transaction. Partly, it’s because the evidence I possessed at the time were circumstantial in nature. Second, there was palpable maneuvering by certain Senators, including Senate President Franklin M. Drilon, to prevent its Honorable Members from being able to fathom its depth and magnitude through the questioning of resource persons.

I appeal to you, Mr. Chairman, to give justice to the Filipino people, especially the poor, by ignoring party loyalty and bring to light the full scale of what is perhaps the biggest single instance of corruption in Philippine government. The Iloilo Convention Center is a giant monument of greed and lies, an ugly icon of the worst corruption that mars the platform of “matuwid na daan” upon which this Administration stands on.

I will come before this Honorable Blue Ribbon Committee with concrete evidence of how the fraudulent scheme was carried out, much of which came from the major players in the project. The evidence will establish beyond doubt how the ICC was used as a tool to divert and embezzle public funds from the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP). It will demonstrate how DAP was indeed prone to abuse and misuse, which was the primary reason it was struck down by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional and illegal.

With more certainty, I will show how the Government Procurement Reform Act was violated not just once, nor twice, but even thrice or more just to bring this evil plot to fruition. I will expose the lies and deceptions peddled by high-ranking public officials to cover up their flagrant acts of breaking the law. And with the power of subpoena wielded by this Honorable Blue Ribbon Committee, more documents to complete the true picture can be unearthed.

The Filipino people deserve to know the truth, Mr. Chairman. Please do not allow the Honorable Blue Ribbon Committee to be used as shield for the corruption it is mandated to expose, denounce and prevent by strengthening our laws. It has a sacred duty to expose corruption in all fronts, and not just confine itself to those committed by enemies of this Administration. Corruption wears all sorts of color and labels, and Liberal Party is not spared from this handiwork of the devil.

The nation puts much faith in your shoulders, Mr. Chairman. Please do not shirk from this responsibility. The very survival of this nation is at stake. The liberation of the poor from the bondage of poverty rests upon you.

Very respectfully yours,

MANUEL P. MEJORADA

The Smoking Gun: Deed of Donation for the Iloilo Convention Center

Stealing APEC 2015

Jed Patrick E. Mabilog, Ph.D. (from a garage sale), spent one hour this morning attacking me for supposedly stealing from Iloilo City the glory of hosting the 2015 APEC Ministers Meeting.
He accused me (without mentioning my name, stupid coward that he is) of depriving taxi drivers, souvenir shop owners, restaurants, hotels and other businesses of the income he claims would shower upon them should the meetings push through as planned.
Well, okay Mr. Mayor, I plead guilty as charged.

IloiloCenter1
I stole another opportunity for your money-making schemes.
So what do you want to do? Send me to jail for it?
Mabilog thinks Ilonggos are as stupid as he is.
How can one man stop this entire activity with a national government, and a Big Man, behind it?
If everything is above-board, and there are no anomalies, there is no individual or group that could prevent its staging.
But everything about the Iloilo Convention Center is irregular, illegal.
That’s the reason Senate President Drilon is trying to muster all the support he can get to discredit me and camouflage his misdeeds.
This is indeed a funny situation.
I am a mere “batil” or wood-hulled boat, and he has deployed the entire Navy fleet against me.
Their own actions betray their corruption.

‘No mas’?

Below is my press statement in reaction to the initiative of Senator Koko Pimental to cut short the Blue Ribbon Committee investigation into the anomalous Iloilo Convention Center project:

Is the Liberal Party declaring “no mas” in the face of emerging evidence validating my assertions that the bidding and implementation of the Iloilo Convention Center was marred by irregularities such as rigging of the bid and overpricing?

That is the signal being sent by the move of Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III to bring the Blue Ribbon Committee investigation into these issues to an abrupt halt.
Far from the claim of Senate President Franklin Drilon and his party mates that I failed to present evidence to back up my allegations, I have proof and this was strengthened by the testimonies of DPWH Secretary Rogelio Singson and DOT Secretary Ramon Jimenez in last Thursday’s hearing.
On the issue of overpricing:
1) In computing the unit cost for the building, Singson included the roof deck area to arrive at a figure of 11,900 sqm. Even assuming that this is true, the unit cost is still P63,000 per sqm, which is more than double the industry standard of P30,000 per sqm. Singson insists the industry standard cannot be applied to government infrastructure. But he could not explain why it is more than double the P26,000 per sqm. of the SMX n the Mall of Asia.
2. The real floor area of the ICC is 8,932 sqm. based on the Invitation to Bid published by the DPWH in the Manila Standard Today on July 5, 2013 in describing the scope of works for the completion of the structure. If this figure is used, and this is the figure upon which the unit cost should be based, the construction cost would amount to P84,000 per sqm. That is glaring evidence of overpricing.
3. In his testimony, Singson said DPWH is trying to bring down the unit cost to P55,000 per sqm.  That is an admission of overpricing. If that is going to happen, DPWH will be able to slash P95.2 million from the total contract price based on 11,900 sqm as base floor area. That is equivalent to 13% of the present estimated project cost to P747 million.
4. If the unit cost goes down to P55,000 per sqm. and we use the actual floor area of 8,932 sqm., then the overprice is still a whooping P72 million.
5. Singson testified that the architectural design made provisions for an additional two floors, which is why the foundation had to be strengthened. This is a case of over design of the specifications to justify the supposed need for more pile driving. The allocation for pile driving and foundation work in the presentation of Singson is P107,000,000. But the design of the building makes additional floors impractical and unnecessary. The symmetry and balance of the “iconic architecture” would be upset, and it would lose the unique design to make it attractive.
6. By Singson’s own testimony, the overpricing of the project becomes apparent, and the Liberal Party doesn’t want to expose the Senate President to more embarrassment as what happened in last Thursday’s hearing.
On the issue of malversation and plunder:
1. Based on the above presentation, the overprice ranges from at least P74 milliion to P95 million, or even more, depending on further examination of the building plans by technical personnel of the Commission on Audit. The malversation of amounts more than P50 million is plunder. As this is a conspiracy, the act of one is the act of all.
2. No less than Senate President Drilon admitted how deep his involvement in the project is. In fact, during the hearing last Thursday, he was heard “cuing” Singson and Jimenez with their answers. He chided Senator Nancy Binay at one point, forgetting that he had inhibited himself from the hearing, and was there as a resource person. Senator Serge Osmena also took a swipe at him for trying to interject for Jimenez who found difficulty answering the questions the Cebuano senator threw at him. His own actions betrayed the truth that his involvement was more than looking for funds. It took on the nature of ownership, and he could not extricate himself from the issue that he meddled in every aspect of the implementaton.
It would be tragic if the Liberal Party bury the truth by simply shutting the door to a deeper inquiry. It will have abdicated its mandate for oversight, accountability and good governance. By itself, terminating the inquiry at a time when more questions emerged than were answered would be tantamount to betrayal of public trust.

Inappropriate behavior

Senate President Franklin Drilon was definitely out of order when he raised his voice at a fellow senator Nancy Binay during last Thursday’s Blue Ribbon Committee investigation into the overpriced Iloilo Convention Center in Mandurriao, Iloilo City.Phase I ICC

Binay was asking DPWH Secretary Rogelio Singson on where the funding for the project had come from. Singson was giving vague answers. Binay asked him, “was there a legislator who sourced the funds for project?”

Drilon flared up. “Stop beating around the bush. Why don’t you mention my name? Sinabi ko na nga na ako ang naghanap ng pundo para diyan eh!”

That display of temper in a Blue Ribbon Committee hearing might have been acceptable had it come from a member.

But Drilon was not there as a Senator; he had inhibited himself and was there as an ordinary resource person. At that precise moment, he had voluntarily stripped himself of his position as Senate President for purposes of the investigation. He was involved in the project.

Drilon’s inappropriate behavior wasn’t confined to his temper tantrum.

During the course of questioning by Senators Serge Osmena and Koko Pimentel, Drilon was unable to restrain himself from interjecting and whispering (audibly) answers for Singson and DOT Secretary Ramon Jimenez. He cued them for their answers.

It was a clear breach of rules. He was behaving more of counsel for Singson and Jimenez. His demeanor betrayed an apprehension that Singson and Jimenez might blurt out answers that would prejudice him. That the Chairman, Senator TG Guingona, just left him alone in doing that reinforced the perception that the BRC was going to protect the Senate President.

Tear down the veil of hypocrisy

Many Ilonggos are angry to hear that our city grabbed the national limelight as the “bird’s nest of corruption” in the country.
They should be angry. Nobody wants to see our city gain such notoriety. And I equally angry and hurt to see it happen.
Why did I have to say that before the Senate? I have to let the entire nation know that corruption of unprecedented magnitude is draining the public coffers so rapidly, and there’s no effort to plug the leak.
The problem is not me. These Ilonggos should not turn their anger at me. They should be angry at the people who preside over this empire of corruption. Our city can never be great again if this continues.
Am I fabricating facts about corruption?
No. What I mentioned are just the more prominent of the graft-ridden projects we have seen in Iloilo City. At the lower level, we have the “tuklo” in the public markets, the procurement scandals in City Hall and traffic aides filching money from jeepney drivers.
If these people still don’t comprehend the magnitude of the problem, then, they too, become part of the problem.
We can never stop corruption for as long as we pretend not to se

The core issues in the Iloilo Convention Center controversy

The issue on the Iloilo Convention Center boils down to just a few major points:
1. Were there violations of the Government Procurement Reform Act, or RA 9184?
2. Is the contract reasonably priced?
3. Did the public officials involved conduct themselves in a transparent manner and demonstrated accountability?
On the first point:
Right from the start, RA 9184 was transgressed. The services of the architect were procured without undergoing through a competitive bidding process. This is now admitted by no less than DPWH Secretary Rogelio Singson who told Sandra Aguinaldo of GMA News that Megaworld “donated” the services of W. V. Coscolluela and Associates for the design of the building. Why and how that came to be was not explained. But the fact is that the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA) did advertise an Invitation to Bid for an architect for this project. This was later cancelled; Senate President Drilon had already picked Coscolluela as the architect.
The competitive public bidding for Phase I was rigged. The invitation to bid for the contract, for instance, did not conform to the requirement of the IRR for RA 9184 that it should provide a brief and concise description of the project. The protocols in the bidding were also ignored and violated. There was no “competition”. The rules of the game were tampered to favor Hilmarcs Construction Corp.
On the second point (reasonableness of the contract price):
When Senate President Drilon first announced he will push for the construction of a convention center, he said its cost will amount to P300 million. He pegged it at the “industry standard” of P30,000 per square meter for first class buildings like five-star hotels. Six months later, Drilon said the cost had gone up to P450 million without telling the people how it came to be. Then it rose to P700 million. During the Dinagyang 2014, he described it as a P1-billion project. Never did he explain why the cost kept going up and up and up. The building design never changed.
The building has a total floor area of 6,400 square meters. At P30,000 per square meter, that should run to only P192 million. Even at the original cost estimate of P300 million, the project was already overpriced. But Drilon kept inflating the cost figures as more DAP funds became available for him. I challenge him to explain how he reached the figure of P1 billion for the project.
Sec. Singson, in the same interview with Sandra Aguinaldo, admitted that indeed, the industry standard is P30,000 per square meter. He also acknowledged that the SMX in the Mall of Asia cost only P26,000 per square meter. But he argued that the pricing for government projects is different. We could not compare public contracts with private contracts, he said. He did not care to elaborate. Does he mean government contracts have to factor in the kickbacks?
On the third point:
There is a total lack of transparency and accountability. Not once did we hear Drilon or Singson explain why the cost went up from P300 million to P450 million to P700 million and, (luckily we exposed it before it could take off), P1 billion. It took me nearly 10 months before I could get my hands on official records of the project from DPWH (not to mention that I had to pay P5 per page for these documents). When there is no transparency, then you can bet there is hanky-panky business going on. And true enough, I discovered that my hunch was correct.