Drilon, et al told to reply plunder raps
Jennifer P. Rendon (The Freeman) - December 10, 2014 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines – The Office of the Ombudsman has ordered Senate President Franklin Drilon, two Cabinet members and several officials of the Department of Public Works and Highways to answer the charges filed against them by former Iloilo provincial administrator Manuel Mejorada.

In a two-page order, dated last November 17, for the criminal case (docketed as OMB-C-C-14-0392), Director Mothalib Onos of the Preliminary Investigation and Administrative Adjudication Bureau ordered the respondents to file their counter-affidavits to charges of plunder, malversation of public funds and other offenses in connection with alleged anomalies in the construction of the Iloilo Convention Center.

Aside from Drilon, the Ombudsman order also named DPWH Secretary Rogelio Singson, Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr., Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority chief operating officer Mark Lapid, DPWH undersecretaries Jaime Pacanan and Romeo Momo, DPWH-6 regional director Edilberto Tayao and BAC chairman Marilyn Celiz.

They were charged for violations of Article 217 of the Revised Penal Code (malversation of public funds or property), Sec. 3 (e) and (g) of Republic Act 3019 (Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act), RA 7080 (Anti-Plunder Law), and RA 9184 (Government Procurement Reform Act) for alleged conspiracy in rigging the bidding for the ICC and overpriced it by as much as P500 million.

The architectural firm, W. V. Coscolluela and Associates, represented by its president William V. Coscolluela, and the contractor, Hilmarcs Construction, represented by its president, Efren Canlas, were likewise named in the order on the criminal case.  In a separate order, the Ombudsman gave Singson, Jimenez, Lapid, Pacanan, Momo, Tayao and Celiz ten days to submit their counter-affidavit to the administrative case for “dishonesty and grave misconduct” docketed as OMB-C-A-14-0317.

Mejorada, in a press statement, said he received his copy of the orders last Monday. “Apparently, the Ombudsman doesn’t think my complaint is a dud,” he said in retort to Drilon’s statement last week calling him a “dud.”

For Mejorada, the order could be an initial victory considering that the Ombudsman has the power to outrightly dismiss a complaint if it has no basis in fact or law.

In a complaint filed last October 29, Mejorada said the respondents had conspired to raise the contract price for the ICC to as much as P747 million even if its construction cost could not go above P300 million.

Just last week, Mejorada submitted documents to the Senate blue ribbon committee to prove that the ISS was only going to cost P200 million. He showed a certified copy of the deed of donation between Megaworld Corporation and the Department of Tourism, as evidence of his claim that the project was overpriced.

“The deed of donation is the smoking gun. The issues of overpricing and rigging will revolve around this one document,” Mejorada added. 

ANTI-GRAFT AND CORRUPT PRACTICES ACT ANTI-PLUNDER LAW COSCOLLUELA AND ASSOCIATES DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WORKS AND HIGHWAYS DIRECTOR MOTHALIB ONOS OF THE PRELIMINARY INVESTIGATION AND ADMINISTRATIVE ADJUDICATION BUREAU DRILON EDILBERTO TAYAO EFREN CANLAS FOR MEJORADA MEJORADA
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