Ex-Makati vice mayor charged with plunder

Michael Punongbayan - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Former Makati vice mayor Ernesto Mercado was charged with plunder and graft before the Office of the Ombudsman for alleged involvement in the supposed overpriced annex building of the Makati City Hall.

In his complaint, lawyer Roderick Vera of the Philippine Association for the Advancement of Civil Liberties Inc. (PAACL) said Mercado was charged in his capacity as presiding officer of the Sangguniang Panlungsod of Makati from 2007 to 2010 when ordinances were supposedly passed to fund the construction of the annex building.

Seven former Makati councilors who served from 2007 to 2013 were also named respondents.

They are Luis Javier Jr., Romulo Peña Jr., Erlinda Gonzales, Denisse Angelica Hechanova, Arlene Ortega, Karis Israelle Cruzado and Monique Lagdameo, now a representative in Congress of Makati’s first district. 

Vera said he is joining former barangay chairmen Renato Bondal and Nicolas Enciso in the original case they filed last July and impleading Mercado and the seven former councilors.

“Upon a perusal of the much-publicized complaint-affidavit filed by (Bondal and Enciso) as regards the New Makati City Parking Building, it is readily apparent that certain government officials, who are similarly situated as the other respondents accused therein, were, wittingly or unwittingly, excluded,” he said.

Vera said Mercado and the other respondents approved the disbursement of funds knowing fully well that it is grossly overpriced.

“Indeed, the overpricing… would not have been possible had herein respondents not connived with the respondents in the Bondal complaint,” he said.

Bondal and Enciso filed plunder and graft complaints against Vice President Jejomar Binay, his son Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay and 21 other former and incumbent councilors before the Office of the Ombudsman last July 22.

Last month, the two filed a supplemental affidavit with new allegations that the annex building had actually cost P2.7 billion, not P1.56 billion.

Makati residents rally for Binay

Some 3,000 residents from various barangays of Makati assembled at city hall grounds yesterday morning to protest the Senate investigations into the alleged overpricing of an annex building of the Makati City Hall.

The rally coincided with the Senate Blue Ribbon committee’s ocular inspection of the building in question.

Of the 17 committee members, only Senators Aquilino Pimentel III and Antonio Trillanes IV made the actual inspection. Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano was absent.

Rallyists, mostly barangay leaders, senior citizens and city council members, took turns in expressing their support for Vice President Binay and his mayor son.

“It  is a  politically motivated probe,” one of them said.

The rallyists carried placards stating “Walang Iwanan!” “Kay Binay, Gumanda ang Buhay!” and “Tigilan na ang Pagsisinungaling at Panghuhula!”

They vowed to stand by the vice president and his family despite all attempts to put them down.

They declared their support for his candidacy for president in 2016.

Mayor Binay had earlier exposed a plot to have him and the rest of the city council suspended, except for the vice mayor who is a member of the Liberal Party.

“It will  subvert the will of the people of Makati,” he said.

Mayor Binay said the plot would pave the way for the vice mayor to be named acting mayor and unelected people to take over the city council.

“This is no different from the 2006 suspension of my father and the entire city council ordered by the Arroyo regime to get back at my father for being the leader of the opposition,” he said.

‘They can’t investigate my father’

Makati Rep. Abigail Binay believes the Senate cannot investigate her father, the Vice President, for the alleged overpricing of an annex building of Makati City Hall.

“Senators are forgetting that my father is an impeachable officer and can be investigated only in an impeachment proceeding,” she said.

Speaking on ABS-CBN News Channel,  Rep. Binay said her father’s lawyers have advised him against attending the Senate inquiry into the building.

Her father would not attend the inquiry if formally invited, she added.

She said the Senate investigation committee that Pimentel chairs has so far not extended a formal invitation to the Vice President.

If he is subpoenaed, he and his lawyers will question it before the Supreme Court (SC), she added.

Rep. Binay believes her father, being vice president, must explain himself on the Makati controversial annex building.

“Yes, maybe he should, but not before the Senate,” she said. “He should just hold a press conference.”

Responding to another question, Rep. Binay said she has no plans of running for senator as the Senate is a snake pit. 

“They (senators) consider themselves as competitors,” she said.

“They compete against each other. They don’t have bonding, unlike in the House of Representatives.”

‘In aid of election’

Former lawmaker Benny Abante said the Senate inquiry is “in aid of election, not legislation.”

“The hearings in the Senate only reveal that some senators are more focused on the 2016 elections than passing important legislation,” he said.

The chairman of the Bayan Mamamayan Abante Movement advised Binay to brace for more attacks as the May 2016 presidential election nears.

Abante called on the Senate to halt its “investigations in aid of persecution” and focus instead on lawmaking and passing urgent legislation like the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill.

Joker proposal rejected

Senate President Franklin Drilon rejected yesterday former senator Joker Arroyo’s proposal to review the Senate Blue Ribbon’s allegedly one-sided rules.

“First of all, the rules are proven to work,” he said.

“We must remember that the Blue Ribbon committee is not a judicial proceeding, nor is it a criminal investigation. It is primarily in aid of legislation and in seeking the truth. The rules have been there, and they work well, and they continue to work well.” 

Drilon said the Blue Ribbon’s present rules were used when Arroyo chaired the committee in inquiries into the Philippine International Air Terminals Co. (Piatco), the NorthRail project and other anomalies in past administrations.

“You know these are the same rules that Joker utilized when he was the chair of the Blue Ribbon committee and these are the rules that enabled the Blue Ribbon to find out the truth with the Piatco, to discover the anomalies in the NorthRail project and the ones used in the fertilizer scam,” he said.

Trillanes expressed disbelief anew yesterday over claims that the over P2-billion Makati City Building 2 had world-class amenities.  – With Mike Frialde, Jess Diaz, Jose Rodel Clapano, Christina Mendez












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