Kid Peña suspends Makati sister-city pacts with 670 LGUs

MANILA, Philippines – Acting Makati Mayor Romulo Peña has ordered the suspension of Makati's "sister city" agreements with about 670 local government units (LGUs) inked when Vice President Jejomar Binay was mayor.

In a statement on Monday, July 6, Peña also announced that he has ordered an audit to check how resources were spent for the scheme, as part of his directive to review the city's programs.

The move suspends with city's pacts with about 670 partner LGUs established by Binay during his 21 year-stint as Makati mayor. Analysts said these ties boosted Binay's clout among local officials.

Peña said the probe also aims to check if some of the funds can be used instead to improve services for Makati residents.

"The people of Makati deserve better. They deserve better social service programs from the local government," Pena said.

He added: "It is laudable that Makati has forged partnerships with many other cities. However, the city must not neglect its basic relationship with the people. Kung may pera at maganda ang serbisyo sa mga partner LGUs, hindi hamak na dapat mas maganda ang serbisyo sa mamamayan ng Makati," Peña said.

(If there are funds for partner LGUs and services for them are good, Makati's services for its own residents should be much better.) 

He also cited the controversy generated by the Makati Friendship Suites – a hotel where officials of Makati's partner LGUs can stay – as one of the reasons why he ordered the suspension of the agreements.

In a Senate hearing in April, Renato Bondal, a political rival of Binay, claimed the Friendship Suites were overpriced, and were allegedly used by the Vice President for "political mileage" by turning it into a hotel instead of housing informal settlers in the property.

Peña assumed office as acting mayor after Binay's son, Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay Jr, temporarily stepped down last week in compliance with the Ombudsman's second suspension order against him over an alleged overpriced school building.

Open to investigators

The Binays, who have ruled Makati for years, have long been accused of  anomalous city government transactions. Allegations of rigged biddings and overpriced infrastructure have been the subject of a long-running Senate probe, which began in August 2014.

From an alleged overpriced Makati City building, the investigation has since dug up many other alleged anomalies – from a vast estate supposedly owned by Binay, rigged bids, and condominiums received in exchange for favors – that implicated the now Vice President;  his wife Elenita who was Makati mayor from 1998 to 2001; and his son.

Now acting mayor of the city, Peña vowed to open up city hall to investigators looking into the alleged anomalies involving the Binays.

"Ang city hall ay nakabukas sa lahat ng sangay ng gobyerno na gustong tumingin dito sa aming lungsod (City hall is open for investigation to any branch of government)," Peña said.

Peña said he has also started conducting an inventory of employees amid reports that Binay aide Eduviges “Ebeng” Baloloy received her salary for June despite not reporting for work since the Senate started its investigation last year.

Baloloy has been the personal secretary of Vice President Jejomar Binay since 1986. (READ: Ebeng Baloloy: Binay's girl Friday

Former Makati vice mayor Ernesto Mercado tagged her as an alleged bagman for Binay, receiving kickbacks from contractors who secured projects in the city. – Rappler.com