MANILA (Mabuhay) – The construction and development of the controversial Iloilo Convention Center was initially estimated to cost only P200 million, the accuser of Senate President Franklin Drilon said Wednesday as he submitted to a Senate panel the deed of donation which he claims will prove that the construction of the building was overpriced.
Manuel Mejorada, former Iloilo provincial administrator and staff of Drilon, said that based on the document which he obtained on December 1, the property developer Megaworld Corporation will provide the land while the government will put up the amount of P200 million to build the ICC.
He earlier filed with the Ombudsman plunder and charges against Drilon, Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez, Public Works and Highways Secretary Rogelio Singson and several other officials over the alleged rigging and overpricing in the construction of the ICC.
Drilon has since denied the allegation, saying he only recommended the funding for the project but did not participate in the bidding and other processes.
In an interview with reporters, Mejorada said the project cost kept rising from an original estimate of P300 million in April 2012 to its present cost of P747 million. He said the true cost of the project could not be more than P300 million.
He said the deed of donation was signed by Megaworld and DOT on Nov. 13, 2012 in Pasay City.
Mejorada added that he initially requested for an authenticated copy of the deed of donation from Jimenez but it was turned down. He later got a copy of the document from the Iloilo Registry of Deeds.
“After a careful scrutiny of the contract, it became clear that it was a joint venture agreement in which the government was obligated to earmark P200 million for the construction and development of the ICC,” Mejorada said.
He said that when Drilon first announced the plan to build the ICC and pegged the cost at P300 million, “it already was overpriced by a hundred million pesos.”
With the present estimate of P747 million to finish the project, Mejorada said the overprice is now “a whooping P547 million.”
During the Senate hearing last month, the Department of Public Works and Highways said the cost of construction went up after they ordered for additional works from the original contract.
Mejorada said the refusal of Jimenez to give him a copy of the deed of donation is “a feeble attempt at a cover-up.”
Mejorada also submitted to the Senate committee a 16-page memorandum stating Jimenez signed the deed of donation without authority as set out in Executive Order No. 423, series of 2005 covering Government Contracts.
He claimed that because of this, the contract is deemed invalid and not binding on the government.
He said the project was “fraudulently” disguised to avoid complying with stringent regulations for competitive public biddings for public-private partnership enterprises.
He said Drilon and Jimenez unilaterally decided to enter into the joint venture with Megaworld in violation of existing laws and regulations like the BOT Law and the Guidelines for Joint Ventures Between Government and Private Entities issued by the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA).
Mejorada also said the funding was made without the required approval of the Investment Coordination Committee.
“At the inception of the Iloilo Convention Center project, Senate President Drilon, Secretaries Jimenez and Singson disregarded the requirement for review and approval of the Investment Coordination Committee even with their knowledge that the estimated project cost was a minimum of P708 million,” he said.
He also said the donation of W.V. Coscolluela and Associates of its architectural services by preparing the architectural and engineeering decsign of the ICC was illegal, as well, as there was no written agreement pertaining to it.
“This Honorable Blue Ribbon Committee might deem it proper to require W. V. Coscolluela and Associates to present the written agreement which was the basis for the performance of services for Megaworld or Department of Tourism,” he said.
Waste of time?
At the end of hearing last month, some senators said they have yet to see proof of overpricing even as Mejorada admitted then that he does not evidence yet on his accusation.
For one, Senator Sergio Osmena III, said Mejorada should be given another chance to present his case. On the other hand, Senator Antonio Trillanes IV said the hearing should end due to lack of evidence presented.
For her part, Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago said Mejorada could even be cited in contempt for wasting the time of the Senate. (MNS)