Pag-IBIG chief clears Vice President in probe

Marvin Sy (The Philippine Star) - January 23, 2015 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Pag-IBIG Fund president and CEO Darlene Berberabe denied allegations that Vice President Jejomar Binay used his position as chairman to influence the state-owned firm to enter into some anomalous contracts.

The Pag-IBIG Fund was dragged into the controversies surrounding Binay after Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV alleged the firm was being used for the personal interests of the Vice President.

Trillanes filed Senate Resolution 1114 earlier this week calling on the Senate Blue Ribbon committee to investigate the allegedly anomalous transactions of the Pag-Ibig Fund and the Boy Scouts of the Philippines, both headed by the Vice President.

During the Senate Blue Ribbon subcommittee’s hearing yesterday on the allegedly overpriced parking building constructed by the city government of Makati, Berberabe was invited to testify regarding the contracts reportedly entered into by Pag-Ibig with Omni Security Investigation Inc., a security agency reportedly owned by Binay.

Berberabe read a prepared statement clearing the Vice President of the charge that he used his position as chairman of Pag-Ibig Fund to influence the signing of a P193-million contract with Omni.

“If the issue is whether the honorable Vice President Jejomar C. Binay, who is the chairman of the Pag-Ibig Fund board of trustees, used his power to get Omni into Pag-Ibig, I categorically say that no, this did not happen,” Berberabe said.

She explained Omni was interested in participating in the bidding for the contract but was disqualified for being one minute late in submitting required documents.

“This clearly shows that we follow the procurement law strictly and there is no hanky panky in our bidding process,” Berberabe said.

Berberabe admitted Omni has an existing contract with Pag-Ibig, which she said was for her close-in security.

She pointed out the contract with Omni involves the hiring of three bodyguards for a period of four months at a cost of P420,000.

Berberabe admitted Omni was recommended to her by the Vice President shortly upon her assumption as president and CEO of Pag-Ibig.

Because of the small amount involved for the contract and the “urgency of the required protection,” Berberabe said the hiring of Omni for her close-in security did not go through bidding anymore as allowed by the Government Procurement Reform Act.

“It is important to emphasize that the contract amount for the three bodyguards is small at around P420,000 per contract versus the P193 million for the security service of our offices, which is locked for three years,” Berberabe said.

“This should negate any suggestion that Vice President Binay is trying to clinch multi-million contracts for Omni or that Vice President Binay uses his position to get contracts for Omni,” she added.

Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano said the hiring of Omni for the security requirements of Berberabe constitutes a conflict of interest, saying one of the security agency’s reported owners, Hirene Lopez, is the wife of Pag-Ibig Fund director Tomas Lopez.

Berberabe said she was not aware of what Cayetano said, including who Hirene Lopez was until the hearings of the Blue Ribbon subcommittee started and her name was mentioned.

Tomas Lopez is also president of the University of Makati and is among the individuals being summoned by the Blue Ribbon subcommittee for its hearings.

Cayetano also asked Berberabe if she knew Gerry Limlingan, the alleged bagman and close aide of the Vice President who was also summoned to the hearings but has not been found.

Berberabe admitted she knew Limlingan, who she said was a consultant at the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council also headed by the Vice President.

She said Limlingan attended some of the board meetings of the Pag-Ibig Fund but the last time she talked to him was sometime last year at around the time the Senate’s hearings started.

It was also revealed yesterday that the Pag-Ibig Fund is currently leasing two office spaces since it moved out of The Atrium in Makati City in 2010, one of which is the JELP Building along Shaw Boulevard in Mandaluyong City, said to be owned by former President and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada.

“A premise of the suggestion that Vice President Binay tries to influence Pag-Ibig to enter into anomalous transactions is that Pag-Ibig and its officers and employees who sign the documents to capture the transactions are corruptible and can be forced to sign something that is illegal, immoral or simply, wrong,” Berberabe said.

“In the strongest terms, I say that this is most unfair because Pag-Ibig has been known, especially in the last four years, for its excellent performance and integrity,” she said.


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