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)

Ombudsman directs Mejorada, 2 Cabinet men and others to file position papers in ICC case

Evil genius

I agree with former Senator Joker Arroyo.
The crafting of the DAP and its misuse to strengthen the hold of the Liberal Party on Philippine politics was evil.
It stands in contradiction with the principles of the Liberal Party.
Its so-called “noble intentions” could be compared to the desire of Adolf Hitler to eradicate the Jewish race and “cleanse” the German nation.
DAP stands for tyranny, which is evil.
DAP sought to undermine the very foundations of our democracy.
It endeavored to use corruption to get rid of the perceived enemies of society, only to replace them with a worse kind.

A national disaster

With the Supreme Court ruling unanimously that the Development Acceleration Program of the Aquino administration is “unconstitutional”, Malacanang spokespersons had a tough time trying to deflect the public anger and demands for the resignation of DBM Secretary Butch Abad.
We did nothing wrong,” said Communications Secretary Sonny Coloma. His deputy, Edwin Lacierda, tried to soften the impact of the ruling by saying that DAP may have been declared “unconstitutional”, but “not illegal”.
But the public anger isn’t about to die down. In fact, it’s turning out to be a wildfire that is burning out of control. The Aquino government is under siege from the people, and every word that comes out from its spokes persons only succeed in fueling the fire, like gasoline used to douse it.
in Iloilo City, lawyers ridiculed Lacierda. Atty. Dan Cartagena asked this question: “Where did Lacierda get his law degree?” His post drew a long thread of unkind words from his brethren in the legal profession. 

In my own column, “Coffeebreak”, I wrote that this caused the death of decency in our government. That perception is reinforced by the stubborn refusal of Mr. Aquino and his key aides in even just admitting they had done wrong. The pressure is building up on Abad to resign. Even an administration ally, Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, said Abad should resign.

What is happening is a national disaster. We now have a government trying to plug the sieves as the ship is sinking fast.

PNoy’s breakfast with Senator-Judge Bong was wrong!

When the Senate constituted itself as an Impeachment Court in accordance with the Constitution, its members ceased to become political animals and even wore judicial robes to elevate them to a different plane. They ceased to be legislators each time they wore the robes. They represented justice, fair and objective. Above suspicion. But President Aquino corrupted the whole process.

Plunder and unexplained wealth complaint versus Senate President Franklin M. Drilon

Plunder and unexplained wealth complaint versus Senate President Franklin M. Drilon

 

It’s not enough to be angry, again

We are missing a point in debates about which way the anti-pork rallies are headed. We should not even be having those debates — whether it’s just anti-pork, or it’s straying into “anti-PNoy”.
The people are angry, period. But wait! We need to bring perspective into what is happening.
Is it enough to be angry? Do we just go through another cycle of protests?
I think the turn of events should jolt the Filipino people into wakefulness. The problem is that we easily get lulled into letting our vigilance down. After EDSA, we rode on the crest of a belief that evil has been booted out, and decency will be restored. We put down our guard until Erap’s abuses became intolerable. Then came Gloria. it took so long before we found our collective voice again and propelled PNoy to the Palace in 2010.
Again we went back to sleep, thinking “matuwid” will take us to our destination quickly. And now this.
We must realize that we have civic duties as citizens. We can’t trust government, no matter who leads it, to carry out its work with utmost sincerity and devotion without us constantly riding on its back. The temptations for abuse abound. It is our duty to keep a round-the-clock watch. The people can’t delegate that role to the bureaucracy.