Another plunder complaint vs Drilon

MANILA, Philippines – Former Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda) chief Augusto Syjuco Jr on Tuesday, October 1, filed with the Ombudsman a second plunder complaint against Senate President Franklin Drilon, his rival in Iloilo politics.

Syjuco alleged that Drilon, using his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), made a fraudulent purchase of a property for a public works project in Iloilo in 2006.

The 21-page complaint affidavit says Drilon conspired with several public works and local officials to jack up the value of a 16.2-hectare property at Lot No. 4292-B, Barangay San Isidro, Jaro, Iloilo City.

This is the second plunder complaint filed by Syjuco against Drilon before the Ombudsman in a week. In the first complaint, he accused Drilon of using his PDAF for the construction of a substandard Iloilo Hall of Justice in 1991.

These are “malicious and baseless” charges, Drilon said.

“To set the record straight, I had no involvement in the construction of the Iloilo Hall of Justice because the fund was coursed through the Department of Public Works and Highways Central Office. I was told the project was aboveboard, there was proper bidding, and there was nothing illegal and anomalous about the project which was completed in 1992,” said Drilon.

About the second complaint, he said: “I had nothing to do with the purchase of the land as mentioned in the graft complaint of Syjuco. It was the Iloilo City government which purchased that land. I had no participation whatsoever in the purchase of that land.”

Drilon said in time he would “hold [Syjuco] responsible for these malicious and baseless cases.”

Syjuco said the property, which belonged to Marilyn Mirasol Inocencio, was identified as relocation site for residents displaced by the clearing of city waterways under the Iloilo Flood Control Project (IFCP).

The lot was selected based on the evaluation and recommendation by the panel’s technical working group.

Syjuco said the city government’s committee land evaluation and acquisition originally assessed the value of the lot between P2.75 million and P3.37 million, based on registry records from 1999 to 2005.

“Inocencio, as declared property owner at that time, paid a total of P7,434.90 as real property taxes for the year 2005. Before its purchase [by the government], the subject property could be classified only as unproductive rice field, since it has no roads available or connecting to any main road and there was no access to electricity and potable water,” he said.

Based on the lowest assessment, the lot had a value of only P17.00 per square meter.

But on Jan. 24, 2006, the complainant said the property was reclassified from “agricultural” to “residential” resulting in its value soaring 23 times to P393 per square meter.

The new valuation was based on a new tax declaration issued on that date by the City Assessor’s Office, Syjuco explained.

The revised market value jacked up the price of the property to P81 million.

Syjuco said the difference between the original market value of P2.75 million and the eventual selling price of P63.2 million is P60.45 million more than the P50 million minimum amount required to make those involved in the anomaly liable for plunder.

A day after the reclassification of the property, the deed of sale was signed. The lot sold for P63.2million, allegedly paid for by Drilon’s PDAF.

Syjuco said a certain Efren Gimeo, who brokered the sale, is a potential witness.

He also sought Drilon and his unnamed co-respondents to be indicted for graft for entering into a “grossly disadvantageous contract” on behalf of government.

Syjuco wants Drilon placed under preventive suspension while an investigation into the issue is ongoing to ensure “non-intervention and non-interference” from the Senate President. – Rappler.com