MANILA (Mabuhay) — Senator Sergio Osmena III believes the Senate should give former Iloilo Provincial Administrator Manuel Mejorada another chance to present his evidence on the alleged overpricing in the P700-million Iloilo Convention Center.
Mejorada has filed plunder and graft complaints before the Ombudsman against Senate President Franklin Drilon and other government officials for allegedly conspiring to jack up the price of construction of the ICC.
“There were a lot of points that were raised by Mr. Mejorada but he did not have the hard documentation. Now hard documentation is only one of the types of evidence. Maganda yung mga arguments niya and if you could convict by circumstantial evidence, he will be able to make his case,” Osmeña said.
“Maganda yung mga arguments, maganda yung circumstances,etc. Wala lang kopya at pwede naman i-subpoena yung kopya na yan ng Blue Ribbon Committee to determine if there is probable cause,” he added.
The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee conducted its first hearing on the issue Thursday.
Mejorada admitted there that he had no evidence because he had no subpoena powers to summon the documents he needed to prove his claims. He, however, adverted to resources online to show there was a paper trail that could lead to evidence of corruption in the construction of the convention center.
Osmena said that while he was not saying that bribery happened, there were “other aspects to the convention center issue that [would] make people suspicious, that to me might be violative of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.”
He earlier raised the point of Megaworld Corporation benefitting more from the government’s multimillion-peso constuction of the ICC, which is located on the property it donated. Around the ICC are hotels and offices that are part of the corporation’s development plans.
“My stand is in the interest of transparency na hindi pa lumalabas lahat ng facts dito, wag muna natin isara. The public wants to have a more transparent investigation, ako naman personally ayoko naman sabihin na bakit yung kay Vice President (Jejomar) Binay nag 11 hearings na kayo e dito isa pa lang e pinipigilan mo na yung committee,” he said.
He however said that he will abide with the ruling of the committee.
“I will not agree with (ending the hearing) but I’m willing to abide by the vote if the committee meets and take a vote on it,” said Osmena.
In a separate interview, Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago said the committee should ask former Iloilo Rep. Augusto Syjuco to submit an affidavit or present evidence to prove his accusation.
“Yes that would be a good move (to ask for his affidavit) or we can ask him to present at least one piece of documentary evidence so that we’ll know that he holds something substantial,” she said.
“But early in his testimony, if he proves to be similar (to Mejorada) in the sense of just making accusations without backing it up with evidence, then he should already be stopped,” Santiago added. (MNS)