Jejomar Binay, son face more graft charges over Makati Science High School

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Former vice president Jejomar Binay and his son, former Makati City mayor Jejomar "Junjun" Binay Jr, were indicted of graft and falsification of documents over irregularities in the construction of the Makati Science High School building.

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales approved the indictment for 4 counts of graft and 3 counts of falsification of documents against the Binays, the Office of the Ombudsman said in a statement on Thursday, August 3.

The 10-story building cost the Makati City government P1.3 billion. In a Senate inquiry in 2014, Binay's ally-turned-rival Renato Bondal said the building was overpriced by around P862 million. 

Bondal filed a plunder complaint before the Ombudsman that same year in connection with the alleged overpricing, accusing the Binays and other officials of pocketing the difference.

In Morales' resolution, however, only graft charges were ordered against the former vice president and his son because the offenses found were irregularities in the processes and not conspiracy to amass ill-gotten wealth.

The 77-page resolution does not mention the allegations of plunder. A high-ranking official in the Office of the Ombudsman said the overpricing issue is still being investigated.

The Binay camp said the indictment was yet another selective prosecution on the part of Morales.

"The allegations have been answered, but apparently disregarded by the Ombudsman. It once again underscores the selective prosecution of the Binays and the Ombudsman's tendency to look the other way when other political personalities are involved," the Binays' spokesperson Joey Salgado said in a statement on Thursday.

Salgado added, "Former VP Jojo Binay and former Mayor Junjun are confident that in a fair and impartial trial, they will be able to clear their names and dispute the baseless charges of a patently biased Ombudsman." 

Irregularities

The Ombudsman said the hiring of consultancy firm Infiniti for the design of the building was a "negotiated procurement instead of competitive bidding." There was also no posting of invitation to bid, and there were misrepresentations in the bid negotiations. Binay Sr's contract with Infiniti when he was mayor amounted to P17.37 million.

"Witnesses from two of the architectural firms, which allegedly participated in the negotiation conference, however, executed affidavits denying that they joined the bid negotiations and submitted proposals for the project. They also denied having consented to the use of the names of their companies," the Ombudsman said.

The Ombudsman also said that Binay Sr and his city officials rigged the procurement process for the construction, which was divided into 6 phases that spanned from 2008 to 2013, and cost a total of P1.33 billion.

The firm that won the project was Hilmarc's Construction.

"This was made possible by respondents, acting in conspiracy, through the falsification of bidding documents, suppression of information to prospective bidders, and undue haste in the award of the contracts," the Ombudsman said.

According to the Ombudsman investigators, construction firms which were made to appear to have joined the bidding testified they, in fact, did not. Bid documents, the investigators said, turned out to be fake.

“Hilmarc’s was placed on higher footing than any potential bidders who, by lack of publication of the [invitation] in newspapers of general circulation and by the limited time of posting in the PhilGEPS, city’s website or conspicuous places, were deprived of sufficient chance to participate in the biddings. In fact, no other bidder participated in the public biddings for phases 2, 4, 5 and 6," Morales said in her resolution.

Morales said that the public biddings that the Makati City government showed for the project "were nothing but a sham."

19 other city officials were indicted of 4 counts of graft and 3 counts of falsification of document. They are:

 – Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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