Still ‘overpriced’? Makati acting mayor faces graft complaint over cakes

MANILA, Philippines – A former Makati city politican filed a graft and corruption complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman against Acting Mayor Romulo “Kid” Peña Jr for allegedly overpricing the city’s free birthday cakes for senior citizens.

In the 28-page complaint filed on Tuesday, September 29, former Makati vice mayor Bobby Brillante alleged that the contract with Goldilocks Bakeshop Incorporated that was recently approved by Peña was overpriced by P3 million.

In an interview with Rappler, Brillante said that amount is 35% higher than what the Makati city government was paying when Mayor Jejomar Erwin “Junjun” Binay Jr, who was suspended for supposedly overpricing a city infrastructure project, was still seated as mayor.

On August 25, Makati named sole bidder Goldilocks as the new supplier of its free birthday cakes for the elderly. (WATCH: Lone supplier places bid on Makati’s cake-giving program)

Peña approved the bakeshop’s proposed total budget of P8.67 million ($185,172.66) for the production and delivery of 31,187 cakes to senior citizens celebrating their birthdays from August 15 to December 31, 2015.

Goldilocks replaced Bakerite, which was owned by Timstate Food and Beverages Corporation and had been supplying the cakes since March 2014.

According to Makati bids and awards committee (BAC) chairperson Danilo Villas, Bakerite was supposed to continue supplying the cakes until the end of the year, but a “failure of bidding” occurred with the last contract with Bakerite following the onslaught of the corruption allegations against the Binay family.

This prompted Peña to personally purchase the cakes from Goldilocks with the help of unnamed sponsors from the time he was sworn as acting mayor until the BAC was able to recommend a new cake supplier subject to the acting mayor’s approval.

However, Brillante said this move was faulty for it violated Republic Act No 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act.

“He unilaterally cancelled the previous bidding that was held by the Bids and Awards Committee. Under the law, you don’t just do that. What you do is you order the conduct of an investigation. When the result of the investigation says that the bidding [had] anomalies, then the Bids and Awards committee will make the recommendation [to have a new bidding],” Brillante said.

The former Makati vice mayor also asked the Ombudsman to slap a preventive suspension order against Peña so he will not influence the investigation’s outcome.

Deceived by Peña?

NON-PARTISAN. Brillante stresses he is not allied with the Binay family nor with Peu00f1a. Photo by Mara Cepeda/Rappler

NON-PARTISAN. Brillante stresses he is not allied with the Binay family nor with Peu00f1a.

Photo by Mara Cepeda/Rappler

In his complaint, Brillante said that while Goldilocks’ cakes are cheaper than Bakerite’s, the cakes from Goldilocks are actually smaller.

Goldilocks, the lone bidder, is producing cakes sized 9 inches in diameter by two inches in height for P266-P285 each. When Bakerite was still the supplier, Makati senior citizens received cakes that were thicker by two more inches, priced at P306.75 each.

This is how we were deceived. Bumaba ng P26 'yung halaga ng cake pero it was reduced by ½ kasi,” said Brillante. (This is how we were deceived. The price of the cake decreased by P26 but it was because the size decreased by half.)

He insinuated a possible collusion between Goldilocks and Peña.

“If you notice, there was only one bidder in the next bidding. Prior to the cancellation, he already announced that he will be supplying a mas masarap na cakes (cakes that tasted better). You cannot make a preferential treatment against any brand,” argued Brillante.

The same argument was laid out by Councilor Marie Alethea Casal-Uy, an ally of the Binay family who said that the bidding conference for the new birthday cake supplier was “highly questionable and faulty.”

Peña has since denied the claim, saying that has nothing to benefit from Goldilocks.

Brillante stressed that he is not allied with the Binay family nor with Peña. Brillante had previously filed a number of graft and corruption cases against Vice President Jejomar Binay, who was mayor of Makati for 21 years. (READ: Payoffs, weak prosecution got Binay off the hook)

In a text message sent to Rappler, Peña said he was not expecting the complaint from Brillante.

“We will await the complaint so we would know where Tito Bobby is coming from. But for us, it is a very transparent bidding,” said Peña, who added that he called Brillante “tito” as a “as sign of respect.” – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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