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The Continuing Search for Makati’s White Elephant

Pimentel, while remaining as PDP-Laban president, withdrew from the opposition ticket and instead decided to run under the administration coalition led by the President Benigno Aquino III’s Liberal Party.

 

by Ducky Paredes

 

 

Senator Aquilino Pimentel, Jr., chair of the Senate Blue Ribbon subcommittee conducting hearings on the alleged overpriced Makati City Hall Building 2 said he plans to invite Vice President Jejomar Binay as a “lone” resource person in a forthcoming hearing.

Senate Blue Ribbon sub-committee chairman Aquilino Pimentel III confirmed plans of inviting the Vice President to a hearing where he would be the lone resource person.

“Ganito ang plano ko: ‘Pag tapos na lahat ng witnesses. Magse-set ako ng isang hearing, at ang imbitado lamang doon isang tao lang, walang iba kundi si Vice President Binay,” Pimentel said.

Pimentel said that Binay can refuse the invitation, and that he would not impute any meaning in it, should be choose not to appear before a hearing on the alleged overpriced building that was bidded out and began construction when he was still Makati City mayor.

The Makati City Hall Building 2, which began construction in 2007, is bleived to be  overpriced by almost P2 billion.

The 11-story office and parking building is the subject of a plunder complaint filed by lawyer Renato Bondal and Nicolas Enciso VI before the Ombudsman against Vice President Binay and his son, incumbent Makati City Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay Jr.

(Unfortunately, for Makati, their former Mayor, having been elected Vice President,  can no longer be charged with any crimes he may have committed as Makati mayor. As Vice President, he is now answerable only for impeachable  crimes, not to anything he may have done before he was elected to the higher office. This is the reason why his whole family (Mayor son, Senator Daughter and Congresswoman Daughter) scoff at those who would blame Jojo for the overprice of the Makati City Hall building. After all, even if you could prove it, you can’t do anything since this is not a “impeachable offense” which is all that impeachable officers should worry about. Thus, it is unimportant to them whether the building’s P2.2-billion price tag, is because of the building’s “high quality”or  (as claimed by the former Mayor of Makati) the city even “saved P200 million” from the contract he signed.

As now one who can only be charged with impeachable offenses, the Vice President is answerable only for impeachments that can come only from the Congress.

(Another sidelight is the “bad blood” between the Pimentels and the Vice President. Binay and Pimentel went their separate ways before the 2013 elections after PDP-Laban, then a member of the opposition coalition United Nationalist Alliance, agreed to former Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri’s inclusion in the UNA senatorial slate as a member of the Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino. (Koko lost in the 2007 elections believing that he was cheated by the party of then President Gloria Arroyo which proclaimed Zubiri as the winner.)

Pimentel, while remaining as PDP-Laban president, withdrew from the opposition ticket and instead decided to run under the administration coalition led by President Benigno Aquino III’s Liberal Party. (Binay had been a member of the PDP-Laban since he entered politics in the 1980s.  He, however, resigned from the party earlier this year.  He ran and won the vice presidency under the UNA—a coalition of the PMP and the PDP-Laban—in 2010.)

* * *

Tomorrow, the Senate panel is set to continue the grilling of  the executives of building contractor Hilmarc’s Construction Corporation, and representatives from the Commission on Audit (COA).

The panel will also test the credibility of former Makati City vice mayor Ernesto Mercado and former bids and awards committee vice chairman Engr. Mario Hechanova, who testified against the Binays in previous hearings.

In a media interviews, the Vice President and his family again brushed off the allegations against the former mayor as politically motivated and linked this to survey results showing him leading other potential candidates in the 2016 presidential race.

* * *

Since Jojo Binay is now an “untouchable” except through impeachment, what can Senators Cayetano and Trillanes hope for in their investigation of something that Jojo Binay may have done in  a past life as a municipal official, for which he can no longer be held liable having now  become an impeachable officer?

The best that they can hope for is enough proof that the former Mayor made his money by stealing from the city and enriching himself  in the process which would predict how he would do as the President of our country.

This would not be a bad thing for the coming elections and would even elevate the choices instead of making the coming election as just another popularity contest as most of out elections have become. We spend so much just to find out who was the most popular of the candidates.

Of course, in the last elections for our latest senators, we did have a new crop of politicos without the usual showbiz personalities winning election based only on fans’ mindless choices.

There may still be hope in this country for meaningful elections that will choose the best leaders for our country.

* * *

Perhaps the best thing that has happened to us has been the internet and the number of our younger citizens who have become adept netizens, The fact that stories are posted on the Net can immediately checked as to facts and relevance takes a lot away from the effectiveness of rumors and professional rumor-mongers who in past elections often made a difference in the results of our elections.

Let us hope for more netizens who can make a difference for a better Philippines.

# # # #

hvp 09.09.14

 

Readers who missed a column can access www.duckyparedes.com/blogs. This is updated daily. Your reactions are welcome at duckyparedes@gmail.com or you can send me a message through Twitter @diretsahan.

Obispo sa mga Binay: Sagutin ang Complaint!

Diretsahan

 

ni Horacio Paredes

 

Hinimok ni Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo ang pamilya Binay na harapin at sagutin ang mga alegasyon na ipinupukol sa kanila kaugnay ng diumano’y overpriced na Makati City Parking Building 2 sa halip na ipangalandakan na “pinupulitika” lamang sila.

Sinabi ni Pabillo, chairman ng CBCP-Episcopal Commission on Public Affairs (ECPA), hindi tamang sabihin lamang ng mga Binay, partikular na si Vice President Jejomar Binay, na pinupulitika lamang sila.

Ang hindi yata naiintindihan ng Obispo ay wala nang paki ang Bise Presidentekung anupaman ang maaaring ipalitaw ng Senado sa kanilang pagiimbistiga dahil ngayong Bise Presudnte na ang dating alkalde ay hindi na siya kinakailangang sumagot sa kung anuman ang kaniyang nagagwa noon Alkalde pa  siya sapagkat’t ang dapat lamang na kanyang sagutin ay ang kaso tungkol impeachment. Habang wala si Binay nilalabag na impeachable offense. Di siya maaaring pasagutin. Ito’y ganoon rin kapag napili pa siyang Pangulo ng ating bansa.

Dahil dito, hindi kinakailangang makinig si Binay at kaniyang pamilys kung anuman ang mga akusasyon tungkol kay Binay noon siya ay alkalde pa lamang.

Nunit, Sinabi ng obispo, hindi mahalaga ang mga counter accusation at sa halip ay dapat na sagutin at ipaliwanag kung bakit walang katotohanan ang mga alegasyon upang malinis nila ang kanilang pangalan.

 “Dapat harapin ni Binay at ng kanyang pamilya ‘yung mga akusasyon. Hindi naman sapat sabihin niya na pamumulitika lang, sagutin niya may mga reklamo laban sa kanya at kung talagang may isasagot siya sa mga reklamo na ganu’n na hindi naman babalewalain lang na sasabihin na namumulitika lang sila, hindi ganu’n ‘yan, may basehan ang complain dapat sagutin niya kung bakit ganu’n,” giit ni Pabillo sa pana­yam ng church-run Radio Veritas.

Magugunita na inakusahan ng overpricing si Binay sa pagpapagawa ng Makati Parking Building 2 na nagkakahalaga ng P2.7 bilyon.

Pero dahil nangungunang presidential aspirant sa 2016 si Binay, base sa mga survey, makailang ulit na iginiit ng kampo ng Bise Presidente na sinisira lamang ng mga kalaban sa pulitika ang matunog na pangalan nito.

Ngunit naniniwala si Pabillo na maaari namang sagutin nang direkta ni Binay sa Senado, partikular sa Senate Blue Ribbon committee na siyang dumidinig sa isyu, at latagan ng maayos na paliwanag na siyang tanging nais marinig ng sambayanan.

# # # #

hvp (09.10.14)

 

Readers who missed a column can access www.duckyparedes.com/blogs. This is updated daily. Your reactions are welcome at duckyparedes@gmail.com or you can send me a message through Twitter @diretsahan.

Our God-Awful MRT/LRT Experience

After nearly a dozen Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT3) mishaps and glitches since July alone—topped by the Aug. 13 overshoot by a malfunctioning train at the Taft Station that injured 38 passengers—senators saw it fit to pry into this EDSA rail system’s state of disorder.

            The Senate inquiry was welcome news to MRT3’s over half-million daily commuters as it raised hopes that the series of public hearings would serve as catalyst for a combined executive-congressional action to reverse this rail system’s decrepit condition, and finally arrest the never-ending spate of accidents and other system hitches that have subjected train passengers to hellish conditions that placed them in harm’s way—on a daily basis.

            Riding an MRT3 train has become so bad and dangerous that one meme that has gone viral on social media is last month’s MRT3 Rush Hour Challenge to government executives to brave the kilometric station queues and slowed-down rides, in a spinoff from the highly popular Ice Bucket Challenge in support of the fight against ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) or Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

            If one were, at this point, still unbelievably looking for enough proof of the hopeless state of MRT3, then it has to be that just hours after the Senate’s Monday (Sept. 1) probe into the Aug. 13 accident that injured 38 passengers, this rail system encountered yet another glitch, this time a signaling system slip-up that stopped trips from the North Avenue-Shaw Boulevard stations for an hour.

            As pointed out by MRT Holdings and MRTC executives: “The problems besieging the MRT-3 System, such as long queues, frequent train breakdown, among others, are attributed to the over-all deteriorating condition of the MRT-3 System due to poor maintenance of the said system by the current maintenance provider hired by DOTC.”

            “The almost everyday news of train stoppages, breakdown of signaling system, breakdown of communication system, overshooting of trains from the rail tracks these past several months, clearly point to a breakdown in the maintenance of the system,” they add.

            DOTC Secretary Joseph Abaya and the probe committee that was created to investigate the Aug. 13 incident dismissed the major accident as a mere case of “human error,” in trying to sweep under the rug the nagging issue of the system’s worsening upkeep.

            The jury is still out on whether the drivers of the stalled train and the rescuing one were at fault, but what is certain is that that such human error was but a symptom of the true malady, which is the fast-deteriorating state of this EDSA rail system resulting from the monumental failure of the DOTC-handpicked service providers to (1) keep the trains in tip-top shape, (2) upgrade or replace antiquated hardware like signaling and emergency brake systems, and (3) procure needed equipment like tow trains to pull stalled coaches and water pumps to prevent flooding of the  tracks during heavy rains.

            However, what has bothered many of those who had attended the maiden public hearing by the Senate committee on public services was the apparent drift of the proceedings to issues, although MRT3-related, not germane to this primary concern of Metro Manila’s train riders: the disaster-waiting-to-happen scenario resulting from the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC)’s virtual takeover of this 15-year-old rail system pockmarked by a disgusting level of upkeep or operation and maintenance (O&M) work.

            In the absence during the initial inquiry of resource persons from DOTC’s supposed private partner—the MRT Holding Corp. (MRTH) and its subsidiary MRT Corp. (MRTC)—it was child’s play for DOTC and Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA) executives to draw attention from the overriding issue—the poor maintenance of the train system under the Aquino administration—to the peripheral ones, particularly the (1) Equity Value Buyout (EVBO) or takeover plan of the Aquino administration and the urgency for a capacity upgrade, (2) the arbitration case that the private partner filed against the government in 2008 for DOTC’s non-payment of rentals and other violations of their BLT agreement, and (3) the Temporary Protection Order (TPO) that the private partner sought in pursuit of the arbitration case it filed last summer in connection with the DOTC’s unilateral acquisition of 48 new trains from a Chinese supplier.

            (MRTC is owned by MRT Holdings II Inc. (MRTH-II), which, in turn, is owned by MRT Holdings Inc. (MRTH).

* * *

            It seems obvious that the EVBO is a dud and obviously just a diversionary ploy, considering that the P53.9-billion buyout budget that has been floated since last year by Abaya and Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima is not enough for a 100% takeover, as this will only cover payment of the economic rights held by state-run Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) and Land Bank of the Philippines (LandBank).

            What about the cost of purchasing the stocks of private owners, specifically MRTH, MRTC and the Metro Pacific Investment Corp., which bought into MRTC in 2010?

            MRTH Vice President Frederick Parayno said in media reports that the representatives of the private partner that government officials have been talking to with regard to the EVBO plan are only the bond holders LandBank and DBP that own a combined 80% economic interest in MRT3, and not the private owners per se in the MRTH/MRTC/MPIC group.

            He notes that that the amount that Government has earmarked for the takeover of the line represents  only the amount for the acquisition of MRTC’s bonds.

            “Back in 2009, when the arbitration case in Singapore started, the price of the line was already pegged at $2.5 billion (roughly P110 billion),” Parayno said. “This could have ballooned by this time.”

Parayno said that, “The government is not even discussing its proposal with the owners of MRTC. Who they are talking to are the government representatives, not the owners.”

            In light of this situation, Parayno urged the government to set a meeting with the Sobrepeña Group to discuss this EVBO plan, adding that, “We are open to meeting with the government  and to discuss the possible plans that they would want to pursue.

* * *

            Although DOTC’s Abaya, Department of Finance (DOF)’s Purisima and National Treasurer Rosalia De Leon have been talking about EVBO since 2013, nobody from these agencies has as yet talked to MRTH and MRTC executives about this planned re-nationalization of the rail system.

            Railwaytech.com, the premier website on railway technology and operations in the United Kingdom and across the world, says  that, “reliability is the key to successful railway operation and maintenance should be the No. 1 priority to ensure reliability is on-going”

             “If the equipment, especially the rolling stock, is not reliable, the railway is not workable.  A good railway management will keep track of its performance and its failures and, by this means, ensure that problems are eliminated before they become endemic.”

* * *

            As emphasized by MRTH spokesperson David Narvasa, EBVO is “not the immediate solution” to MRT3 passengers’ problems—and would, in fact be an “admission of default” by Government with respect to their BLT accord.

            “An equity value buy out will not address the problem of safety,” Narvasa said in a statement. “The problem of safety can only be addressed by getting a qualified maintenance provider.”

            “An equity value buyout is a right given to MRTC in case of default of the government. The government has to first be in default,” the lawyer-spokesperson stressed. “If DOTC says they insist on an equity value buyout, are they saying they are in default?” Narvasa says.

            Are DOTC and its chosen contractors the reason for the  Poor Operation and Maintnance (O&M) situation of the MRTC?

            With nobody from the private owners around during the Sept. 1 hearing, the government’s transport executives had also cashed-in on the capacity expansion issue by turning it around and unduly blaming MRTC for the maintenance problem supposedly for failing to acquire new light rail vehicles (LRVs) to augment the current fleet from the time it started operating MRT3 in 1999.

            What is true is that the  private partner has made five proposals to purchase additional LRVs at no cost to the government since 2002 but all the proposals were rejected by the government.

            The latest offer was made by MPIC in 2010 after buying into MRTC under a cooperation agreement with the Sobrepeña Group, which controls MRTH.

            Such capacity expansion proposals were made five times by the private partner in keeping with the partnership principle of its 1999 BLT agreement with the government on almost doubling the system’s capacity from 350,000 passengers to at least 660,000 riders per day.

            That is why MRTC offered to buy more LRVs since the early 2000s in view of (1) the projection then that the original maximum daily capacity of 350,000 would be met soon, and, (2) the two-year lead time for the manufacture and delivery of new coaches.

* * *

            What DOTC eventually did was to dump Sumitomo Corp., the original maintenance provider when its twice-extended O&M contract expired in 2012. DOTC then hired in 2013 two contractors—the Philippine Trams Rail Management & Services Inc. (PH Trams)- Comm Builders & Technology Inc. (CB&T) consortium and, later, Au Porte Technologies (APT Global)—whose main qualifications seemed to be their owners’ close ties to Abaya, ex-DOTC Secretary Manuel Roxas II and fired MRT general manager Al Vitangcol Jr. and/or their roles as political operatives or campaigners for Roxas and the Liberal Party (LP) in the 2010 elections.

            DOTC had selected PH Trams and, later, APT Global without first consulting MRTC or submitting the contract’s Terms of Reference (TOF) for MRTC’s prior review and approval, in gross violation of their Build Lease Transfer (BLT) agreement forged in 1999.

            Following the DOTC’s arbitrary award of the interim six-month maintenance contract to PH Trams on Oct. 16, 2012, MRTH II and MRTC wrote three consecutive letters to the Department (on Nov. 13, Dec, 18 and Jan. 17 the following year) noting that the selection of PH Trams did not conform to the earlier agreement that the government would seek prior consent from its private partner before choosing the O&M operator.

            The MRTH/MRTC group had also questioned the qualification and capacity of PH Trams to maintain the MRT3.

            Then on Aug. 22 last year, DOTC awarded a one-year maintenance contract to APT Global without again consulting MRTC anew or presenting MRTC  with the accord’s TOR for its review and approval.

            The unilateral moves by the DOTC to select interim O&M operators without first consulting MRTC (in violation of the BLT deal) prompted MRTC to repeatedly demand a technical audit of the MRT3 system—to ascertain not only the actual condition of the accident-prone rail system but also the competence of the interim upkeep contractors.

            The DOTC/LRTA finally agreed to the MRTC-requested technical audit only after the Aug. 13 accident had injured 38 riders and stirred public uproar.

            According to media reports, a team from Mass Transit Railway (MTR) of Hong Kong flew over to Manila last month after being chosen to do the system-wide assessment—for the account of MRTC—and is set to complete its technical  audit report in a month’s time.

* * *

            Contrary to the DOTC/LRTA contention that the MRTC has been at fault for failing to acquire new LRVs, MRTH’s Narvasa revealed that MRTH/MRTC  repeatedly proposed upgrades in anticipation of reaching the 350,000 design capacity of the MRT, but the DOTC ignored all the proposals.

“We gave government proposals for additional trains, including a proposal where the trains would be purchased at no cost to government but all these proposals were not acted upon by government,” Narvasa revealed.

            Instead, he said, the government chose to acquire 48 LRVs from Dalian Locomotive.

“The problem with these trains from China is that they may not be compatible with the existing structure of MRT3,” added Narvasa. “What will be sent over is a prototype made by a company that has no experience in making double-articulated trains.  What it has experience in are locomotives.”

“So the issue now will be whether these trains will be compatible,” he said. “We want to ensure, for the safety of the people, that the trains purchased are compatible with the current system.

The five proposals by the MRTH/MRTC/MPIC group are the following:

            The Monumento Rail Transit Corp. proposed to provide additional trains, upgrade the system and extend the MRT-3 System to Monumento, as approved in 2002 by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Cabinet Committee;

            MRTC proposal to DOTC in May 2004 to provide additional trains and upgrade the MRT-3 System pursuant to their BLT accord;

            MRTC reiterated this proposal to the DOTC in September 2005;

            MRTC sent another proposal to DOTC in March 2007 to provide additional trains and upgrade of the MRT-3 System; and

            MPIC proposal in 2011 to provide additional trains, upgrade, and improve the system and extend the MRT-3 System to Monumento, at no cost to the Government.

            The recent scandal concerning the $30-million extortion charge by Czech Ambassador Josef Rychtar and Inekon boss Josef Husek, which later on led to Vitangcol’s ouster, provides an inkling on why transport executives were opposed to the private partner’s repeated offers to acquire additional trains at no cost to the Philippine government.

            It appears that DOTC executives would rather do the train acquisition themselves than let MRTH/MRTC/MPIC do it for monetary reasons, as could be gleaned from the Rychtar/Husek charge that Vitangcol and his gang had tried to extort $30 million from Inekon in exchange for the supply of new MRT3 trains.

            Incidentally, Vitangcol’s gangmates—Marlo dela Cruz, Wilson Devera and Manolo Maralit—who had been fingered by Rychtar and Husek in the $30-million shakedown are the same guys running PH Trams and APT Global. But this is another story.

* * *

            Industry watchers believe that the Senate probers should focus on the primordial issue of maintenance—or the lack of it—rather than being sidetracked by the peripheral issues that DOTC/LRTA officials have floated during the initial public hearing to conceal the (1) repeated BLT breaches at the expense of MRTC and (2) highly irregular selection of incompetent interim O&M contractors responsible for the train accidents and system glitches now happening with increasing frequency.

            While conducting their probe, senator-investigators would do well to pry into other issues that impact on the safety of over a half-million daily train riders. These include:

            Vitangcol’s allegation in a July news report that the DOTC contract awarded to lone bidder Dalian Locomotive was probably a done deal three years before the public bidding for the P4.5-billion capacity expansion project took place in 2013.

            In a confidential letter reportedly sent to DOTC Assistant Secretary  Jaime Fortunato Caringal, last June 16, Vitangcol revealed that a group of DOTC officials traveled to China in 2010 “to check on the manufacturing facilities of Dalian Locomotive, with all expenses paid for by Dalian Locomotive.”

In this news report, Vitangcol said that during his meeting with Dalian Locomotive executives last May 9 at the MRT3 depot, Dalian’s local representative Antonio de Mesa claimed having taken two DOTC officials to the firm’s office in China. The same news item identified these two officials as DOTC-MRT3 division chiefs Jose Ric Inotorio and Eleanor Naidas.

            Vitangcol then asked: “Was it coincidence or intentional that Naidas and Inotorio were members of the Project Management Office, created to manage and administer the contract with Dalian, and ultimately to accept the LRVs, through a DOTC Special Order?”

            The ousted MRT3 manager also claimed in his letter to Caringal that an unnamed member of the DOTC Technical Working Group that eventually disqualified the other bidder—China South Railways—and recommended the contract’s award to Dalian, was “also part of the group that visited Dalian Locomotive in China back in 2010.”

             Some  lawmakers want the DOTC to disqualify the PH Trams-CB&T venture and APT Global from the Oct. 13 bidding for MRT3’s O&M contract, given their poor maintenance record. Perhaps, considering everything one ought to ask that  the DOTC be disqualified from having anything to do with the MRT and the LRT!

* * *

Readers who missed a column can access www.duckyparedes.com/blogs. This is updated daily. Your reactions are welcome at duckyparedes@gmail.com or you can send me a message through Twitter @diretsahan.

# # # #

hvp 09.09.14

Readers who missed a column can access www.duckyparedes.com/blogs. This is updated daily. Your reactions are welcome at duckyparedes@gmail.com or you can send me a message through Twitter @diretsahan.

The Continuing Search for Makati’s White Elephant

Pimentel, while remaining as PDP-Laban president, withdrew from the opposition ticket and instead decided to run under the administration coalition led by the President Benigno Aquino III’s Liberal Party.

 

by Ducky Paredes

 

 

Senator Aquilino Pimentel, Jr., chair of the Senate Blue Ribbon subcommittee conducting hearings on the alleged overpriced Makati City Hall Building 2 said he plans to invite Vice President Jejomar Binay as a “lone” resource person in a forthcoming hearing.

Senate Blue Ribbon sub-committee chairman Aquilino Pimentel III confirmed plans of inviting the Vice President to a hearing where he would be the lone resource person.

“Ganito ang plano ko: ‘Pag tapos na lahat ng witnesses. Magse-set ako ng isang hearing, at ang imbitado lamang doon isang tao lang, walang iba kundi si Vice President Binay,” Pimentel said.

Pimentel said that Binay can refuse the invitation, and that he would not impute any meaning in it, should be choose not to appear before a hearing on the alleged overpriced building that was bidded out and began construction when he was still Makati City mayor.

The Makati City Hall Building 2, which began construction in 2007, is bleived to be  overpriced by almost P2 billion.

The 11-story office and parking building is the subject of a plunder complaint filed by lawyer Renato Bondal and Nicolas Enciso VI before the Ombudsman against Vice President Binay and his son, incumbent Makati City Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay Jr.

(Unfortunately, for Makati, their former Mayor, having been elected Vice President,  can no longer be charged with any crimes he may have committed as Makati mayor. As Vice President, he is now answerable only for impeachable  crimes, not to anything he may have done before he was elected to the higher office. This is the reason why his whole family (Mayor son, Senator Daughter and Congresswoman Daughter) scoff at those who would blame Jojo for the overprice of the Makati City Hall building. After all, even if you could prove it, you can’t do anything since this is not a “impeachable offense” which is all that impeachable officers should worry about. Thus, it is unimportant to them whether the building’s P2.2-billion price tag, is because of the building’s “high quality”or  (as claimed by the former Mayor of Makati) the city even “saved P200 million” from the contract he signed.

As now one who can only be charged with impeachable offenses, the Vice President is answerable only for impeachments that can come only from the Congress.

(Another sidelight is the “bad blood” between the Pimentels and the Vice President. Binay and Pimentel went their separate ways before the 2013 elections after PDP-Laban, then a member of the opposition coalition United Nationalist Alliance, agreed to former Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri’s inclusion in the UNA senatorial slate as a member of the Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino. (Koko lost in the 2007 elections believing that he was cheated by the party of then President Gloria Arroyo which proclaimed Zubiri as the winner.)

Pimentel, while remaining as PDP-Laban president, withdrew from the opposition ticket and instead decided to run under the administration coalition led by President Benigno Aquino III’s Liberal Party. (Binay had been a member of the PDP-Laban since he entered politics in the 1980s.  He, however, resigned from the party earlier this year.  He ran and won the vice presidency under the UNA—a coalition of the PMP and the PDP-Laban—in 2010.)

* * *

Tomorrow, the Senate panel is set to continue the grilling of  the executives of building contractor Hilmarc’s Construction Corporation, and representatives from the Commission on Audit (COA).

The panel will also test the credibility of former Makati City vice mayor Ernesto Mercado and former bids and awards committee vice chairman Engr. Mario Hechanova, who testified against the Binays in previous hearings.

In a media interviews, the Vice President and his family again brushed off the allegations against the former mayor as politically motivated and linked this to survey results showing him leading other potential candidates in the 2016 presidential race.

* * *

Since Jojo Binay is now an “untouchable” except through impeachment, what can Senators Cayetano and Trillanes hope for in their investigation of something that Jojo Binay may have done in  a past life as a municipal official, for which he can no longer be held liable having now  become an impeachable officer?

The best that they can hope for is enough proof that the former Mayor made his money by stealing from the city and enriching himself  in the process which would predict how he would do as the President of our country.

This would not be a bad thing for the coming elections and would even elevate the choices instead of making the coming election as just another popularity contest as most of out elections have become. We spend so much just to find out who was the most popular of the candidates.

Of course, in the last elections for our latest senators, we did have a new crop of politicos without the usual showbiz personalities winning election based only on fans’ mindless choices.

There may still be hope in this country for meaningful elections that will choose the best leaders for our country.

* * *

Perhaps the best thing that has happened to us has been the internet and the number of our younger citizens who have become adept netizens, The fact that stories are posted on the Net can immediately checked as to facts and relevance takes a lot away from the effectiveness of rumors and professional rumor-mongers who in past elections often made a difference in the results of our elections.

Let us hope for more netizens who can make a difference for a better Philippines.

# # # #

hvp 09.09.14

 

Readers who missed a column can access www.duckyparedes.com/blogs. This is updated daily. Your reactions are welcome at duckyparedes@gmail.com or you can send me a message through Twitter @diretsahan.

Our God-Awful MRT/LRT Experience

“We gave government proposals for additional trains, including a proposal where the trains would be purchased at no cost to government but all these proposals were not acted upon by government. “

 

After nearly a dozen Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT3) mishaps and glitches since July alone—topped by the Aug. 13 overshoot by a malfunctioning train at the Taft Station that injured 38 passengers—senators saw it fit to pry into this EDSA rail system’s state of disorder.

            The Senate inquiry was welcome news to MRT3’s over half-million daily commuters as it raised hopes that the series of public hearings would serve as catalyst for a combined executive-congressional action to reverse this rail system’s decrepit condition, and finally arrest the never-ending spate of accidents and other system hitches that have subjected train passengers to hellish conditions that placed them in harm’s way—on a daily basis.

            Riding an MRT3 train has become so bad and dangerous that one meme that has gone viral on social media is last month’s MRT3 Rush Hour Challenge to government executives to brave the kilometric station queues and slowed-down rides, in a spinoff from the highly popular Ice Bucket Challenge in support of the fight against ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) or Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

            If one were, at this point, still unbelievably looking for enough proof of the hopeless state of MRT3, then it has to be that just hours after the Senate’s Monday (Sept. 1) probe into the Aug. 13 accident that injured 38 passengers, this rail system encountered yet another glitch, this time a signaling system slip-up that stopped trips from the North Avenue-Shaw Boulevard stations for an hour.

            As pointed out by MRT Holdings and MRTC executives: “The problems besieging the MRT-3 System, such as long queues, frequent train breakdown, among others, are attributed to the over-all deteriorating condition of the MRT-3 System due to poor maintenance of the said system by the current maintenance provider hired by DOTC.”

            “The almost everyday news of train stoppages, breakdown of signaling system, breakdown of communication system, overshooting of trains from the rail tracks these past several months, clearly point to a breakdown in the maintenance of the system,” they add.

            DOTC Secretary Joseph Abaya and the probe committee that was created to investigate the Aug. 13 incident dismissed the major accident as a mere case of “human error,” in trying to sweep under the rug the nagging issue of the system’s worsening upkeep.

            The jury is still out on whether the drivers of the stalled train and the rescuing one were at fault, but what is certain is that that such human error was but a symptom of the true malady, which is the fast-deteriorating state of this EDSA rail system resulting from the monumental failure of the DOTC-handpicked service providers to (1) keep the trains in tip-top shape, (2) upgrade or replace antiquated hardware like signaling and emergency brake systems, and (3) procure needed equipment like tow trains to pull stalled coaches and water pumps to prevent flooding of the  tracks during heavy rains.

            However, what has bothered many of those who had attended the maiden public hearing by the Senate committee on public services was the apparent drift of the proceedings to issues, although MRT3-related, not germane to this primary concern of Metro Manila’s train riders: the disaster-waiting-to-happen scenario resulting from the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC)’s virtual takeover of this 15-year-old rail system pockmarked by a disgusting level of upkeep or operation and maintenance (O&M) work.

            In the absence during the initial inquiry of resource persons from DOTC’s supposed private partner—the MRT Holding Corp. (MRTH) and its subsidiary MRT Corp. (MRTC)—it was child’s play for DOTC and Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA) executives to draw attention from the overriding issue—the poor maintenance of the train system under the Aquino administration—to the peripheral ones, particularly the (1) Equity Value Buyout (EVBO) or takeover plan of the Aquino administration and the urgency for a capacity upgrade, (2) the arbitration case that the private partner filed against the government in 2008 for DOTC’s non-payment of rentals and other violations of their BLT agreement, and (3) the Temporary Protection Order (TPO) that the private partner sought in pursuit of the arbitration case it filed last summer in connection with the DOTC’s unilateral acquisition of 48 new trains from a Chinese supplier.

            (MRTC is owned by MRT Holdings II Inc. (MRTH-II), which, in turn, is owned by MRT Holdings Inc. (MRTH).

* * *

            It seems obvious that the EVBO is a dud and obviously just a diversionary ploy, considering that the P53.9-billion buyout budget that has been floated since last year by Abaya and Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima is not enough for a 100% takeover, as this will only cover payment of the economic rights held by state-run Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) and Land Bank of the Philippines (LandBank).

            What about the cost of purchasing the stocks of private owners, specifically MRTH, MRTC and the Metro Pacific Investment Corp., which bought into MRTC in 2010?

            MRTH Vice President Frederick Parayno said in media reports that the representatives of the private partner that government officials have been talking to with regard to the EVBO plan are only the bond holders LandBank and DBP that own a combined 80% economic interest in MRT3, and not the private owners per se in the MRTH/MRTC/MPIC group.

            He notes that that the amount that Government has earmarked for the takeover of the line represents  only the amount for the acquisition of MRTC’s bonds.

            “Back in 2009, when the arbitration case in Singapore started, the price of the line was already pegged at $2.5 billion (roughly P110 billion),” Parayno said. “This could have ballooned by this time.”

Parayno said that, “The government is not even discussing its proposal with the owners of MRTC. Who they are talking to are the government representatives, not the owners.”

            In light of this situation, Parayno urged the government to set a meeting with the Sobrepeña Group to discuss this EVBO plan, adding that, “We are open to meeting with the government  and to discuss the possible plans that they would want to pursue.

* * *

            Although DOTC’s Abaya, Department of Finance (DOF)’s Purisima and National Treasurer Rosalia De Leon have been talking about EVBO since 2013, nobody from these agencies has as yet talked to MRTH and MRTC executives about this planned re-nationalization of the rail system.

            Railwaytech.com, the premier website on railway technology and operations in the United Kingdom and across the world, says  that, “reliability is the key to successful railway operation and maintenance should be the No. 1 priority to ensure reliability is on-going”

             “If the equipment, especially the rolling stock, is not reliable, the railway is not workable.  A good railway management will keep track of its performance and its failures and, by this means, ensure that problems are eliminated before they become endemic.”

* * *

            As emphasized by MRTH spokesperson David Narvasa, EBVO is “not the immediate solution” to MRT3 passengers’ problems—and would, in fact be an “admission of default” by Government with respect to their BLT accord.

            “An equity value buy out will not address the problem of safety,” Narvasa said in a statement. “The problem of safety can only be addressed by getting a qualified maintenance provider.”

            “An equity value buyout is a right given to MRTC in case of default of the government. The government has to first be in default,” the lawyer-spokesperson stressed. “If DOTC says they insist on an equity value buyout, are they saying they are in default?” Narvasa says.

            Are DOTC and its chosen contractors the reason for the  Poor Operation and Maintnance (O&M) situation of the MRTC?

            With nobody from the private owners around during the Sept. 1 hearing, the government’s transport executives had also cashed-in on the capacity expansion issue by turning it around and unduly blaming MRTC for the maintenance problem supposedly for failing to acquire new light rail vehicles (LRVs) to augment the current fleet from the time it started operating MRT3 in 1999.

            What is true is that the  private partner has made five proposals to purchase additional LRVs at no cost to the government since 2002 but all the proposals were rejected by the government.

            The latest offer was made by MPIC in 2010 after buying into MRTC under a cooperation agreement with the Sobrepeña Group, which controls MRTH.

            Such capacity expansion proposals were made five times by the private partner in keeping with the partnership principle of its 1999 BLT agreement with the government on almost doubling the system’s capacity from 350,000 passengers to at least 660,000 riders per day.

            That is why MRTC offered to buy more LRVs since the early 2000s in view of (1) the projection then that the original maximum daily capacity of 350,000 would be met soon, and, (2) the two-year lead time for the manufacture and delivery of new coaches.

* * *

            What DOTC eventually did was to dump Sumitomo Corp., the original maintenance provider when its twice-extended O&M contract expired in 2012. DOTC then hired in 2013 two contractors—the Philippine Trams Rail Management & Services Inc. (PH Trams)- Comm Builders & Technology Inc. (CB&T) consortium and, later, Au Porte Technologies (APT Global)—whose main qualifications seemed to be their owners’ close ties to Abaya, ex-DOTC Secretary Manuel Roxas II and fired MRT general manager Al Vitangcol Jr. and/or their roles as political operatives or campaigners for Roxas and the Liberal Party (LP) in the 2010 elections.

            DOTC had selected PH Trams and, later, APT Global without first consulting MRTC or submitting the contract’s Terms of Reference (TOF) for MRTC’s prior review and approval, in gross violation of their Build Lease Transfer (BLT) agreement forged in 1999.

            Following the DOTC’s arbitrary award of the interim six-month maintenance contract to PH Trams on Oct. 16, 2012, MRTH II and MRTC wrote three consecutive letters to the Department (on Nov. 13, Dec, 18 and Jan. 17 the following year) noting that the selection of PH Trams did not conform to the earlier agreement that the government would seek prior consent from its private partner before choosing the O&M operator.

            The MRTH/MRTC group had also questioned the qualification and capacity of PH Trams to maintain the MRT3.

            Then on Aug. 22 last year, DOTC awarded a one-year maintenance contract to APT Global without again consulting MRTC anew or presenting MRTC  with the accord’s TOR for its review and approval.

            The unilateral moves by the DOTC to select interim O&M operators without first consulting MRTC (in violation of the BLT deal) prompted MRTC to repeatedly demand a technical audit of the MRT3 system—to ascertain not only the actual condition of the accident-prone rail system but also the competence of the interim upkeep contractors.

            The DOTC/LRTA finally agreed to the MRTC-requested technical audit only after the Aug. 13 accident had injured 38 riders and stirred public uproar.

            According to media reports, a team from Mass Transit Railway (MTR) of Hong Kong flew over to Manila last month after being chosen to do the system-wide assessment—for the account of MRTC—and is set to complete its technical  audit report in a month’s time.

* * *

            Contrary to the DOTC/LRTA contention that the MRTC has been at fault for failing to acquire new LRVs, MRTH’s Narvasa revealed that MRTH/MRTC  repeatedly proposed upgrades in anticipation of reaching the 350,000 design capacity of the MRT, but the DOTC ignored all the proposals.

“We gave government proposals for additional trains, including a proposal where the trains would be purchased at no cost to government but all these proposals were not acted upon by government,” Narvasa revealed.

            Instead, he said, the government chose to acquire 48 LRVs from Dalian Locomotive.

“The problem with these trains from China is that they may not be compatible with the existing structure of MRT3,” added Narvasa. “What will be sent over is a prototype made by a company that has no experience in making double-articulated trains.  What it has experience in are locomotives.”

“So the issue now will be whether these trains will be compatible,” he said. “We want to ensure, for the safety of the people, that the trains purchased are compatible with the current system.

The five proposals by the MRTH/MRTC/MPIC group are the following:

            The Monumento Rail Transit Corp. proposed to provide additional trains, upgrade the system and extend the MRT-3 System to Monumento, as approved in 2002 by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Cabinet Committee;

            MRTC proposal to DOTC in May 2004 to provide additional trains and upgrade the MRT-3 System pursuant to their BLT accord;

            MRTC reiterated this proposal to the DOTC in September 2005;

            MRTC sent another proposal to DOTC in March 2007 to provide additional trains and upgrade of the MRT-3 System; and

            MPIC proposal in 2011 to provide additional trains, upgrade, and improve the system and extend the MRT-3 System to Monumento, at no cost to the Government.

            The recent scandal concerning the $30-million extortion charge by Czech Ambassador Josef Rychtar and Inekon boss Josef Husek, which later on led to Vitangcol’s ouster, provides an inkling on why transport executives were opposed to the private partner’s repeated offers to acquire additional trains at no cost to the Philippine government.

            It appears that DOTC executives would rather do the train acquisition themselves than let MRTH/MRTC/MPIC do it for monetary reasons, as could be gleaned from the Rychtar/Husek charge that Vitangcol and his gang had tried to extort $30 million from Inekon in exchange for the supply of new MRT3 trains.

            Incidentally, Vitangcol’s gangmates—Marlo dela Cruz, Wilson Devera and Manolo Maralit—who had been fingered by Rychtar and Husek in the $30-million shakedown are the same guys running PH Trams and APT Global. But this is another story.

* * *

            Industry watchers believe that the Senate probers should focus on the primordial issue of maintenance—or the lack of it—rather than being sidetracked by the peripheral issues that DOTC/LRTA officials have floated during the initial public hearing to conceal the (1) repeated BLT breaches at the expense of MRTC and (2) highly irregular selection of incompetent interim O&M contractors responsible for the train accidents and system glitches now happening with increasing frequency.

            While conducting their probe, senator-investigators would do well to pry into other issues that impact on the safety of over a half-million daily train riders. These include:

            Vitangcol’s allegation in a July news report that the DOTC contract awarded to lone bidder Dalian Locomotive was probably a done deal three years before the public bidding for the P4.5-billion capacity expansion project took place in 2013.

            In a confidential letter reportedly sent to DOTC Assistant Secretary  Jaime Fortunato Caringal, last June 16, Vitangcol revealed that a group of DOTC officials traveled to China in 2010 “to check on the manufacturing facilities of Dalian Locomotive, with all expenses paid for by Dalian Locomotive.”

In this news report, Vitangcol said that during his meeting with Dalian Locomotive executives last May 9 at the MRT3 depot, Dalian’s local representative Antonio de Mesa claimed having taken two DOTC officials to the firm’s office in China. The same news item identified these two officials as DOTC-MRT3 division chiefs Jose Ric Inotorio and Eleanor Naidas.

            Vitangcol then asked: “Was it coincidence or intentional that Naidas and Inotorio were members of the Project Management Office, created to manage and administer the contract with Dalian, and ultimately to accept the LRVs, through a DOTC Special Order?”

            The ousted MRT3 manager also claimed in his letter to Caringal that an unnamed member of the DOTC Technical Working Group that eventually disqualified the other bidder—China South Railways—and recommended the contract’s award to Dalian, was “also part of the group that visited Dalian Locomotive in China back in 2010.”

             Some  lawmakers want the DOTC to disqualify the PH Trams-CB&T venture and APT Global from the Oct. 13 bidding for MRT3’s O&M contract, given their poor maintenance record. Perhaps, considering everything one ought to ask that  the DOTC be disqualified from having anything to do with the MRT and the LRT!

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hvp 09.09.14

Readers who missed a column can access www.duckyparedes.com/blogs. This is updated daily. Your reactions are welcome at duckyparedes@gmail.com or you can send me a message through Twitter @diretsahan.

Giving Jose Rizal His Due

Malaya 09.09.14

 

 “In other words, Rizal as our hero deserves no less than a hero’s monument and sole ownership of the landscape in which he is buried and honored.”

 


 

by Ducky Paredes

 

        The National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) has joined the critics of a condominium project near Rizal Park in Manila, and agrees that the structure would spoil the view of the monument of national hero Dr. Jose Rizal.  A statement signed by NCCA chair Felipe de Leon Jr., the agency “expressed concern on the construction of a multistory condominium that affects the sightlines of the revered Rizal Monument.”  The statement, dated Aug. 27 and e-mailed to media offices on Friday, reffered  to Torre De Manila, a DMCI project along Taft Avenue and near Rizal Park (also known as Luneta), which would be 49 stories tall once finished.

         “As the primary agency tasked with creating and implementing policy on culture and the arts, the commission adheres to the highest standards of conservation and protection of sites and structures. This is based on the principle that heritage sites such as the Rizal Monument are of such national significance that the commission also holds its visual context on the same level of importance,” it said.

        “In other words, Rizal as our hero deserves no less than a hero’s monument and sole ownership of the landscape in which he is buried and honored,” it stressed.

        “To this end, the commission laments the interference and visual distractions of the condominium tower, a commercial structure that seems to mar our reverence for Jose Rizal and violates the historic setting that gives a fitting dimension to his place in our nation’s history.”

        The NCCA called on lawmakers to “consult with our experts and enact appropriate laws to protect the visual landscapes and other such vistas that form an integral part of our heritage.”

        Despite an online campaign launched by cultural activist Carlos Celdran against Torre, the project was approved by the Manila city building official in 2012 under then Mayor Alfredo Lim. It was later questioned in the city council, under the current administration of Mayor Joseph Estrada, but was eventually given the approval to proceed with the construction.

        Public attention to the project was revived on Wednesday when Sen. Pia Cayetano conducted an inquiry, during which DMCI lawyer Roel Pacio admitted that the project “exceeded” the floor-to-area ratio set by the Manila Zoning Ordinance for the site but was nevertheless granted a permit by the city building official.

        Reached for comment on Friday regarding the NCCA statement, Pacio and DMCI Holdings Inc. president Isidro Consunji both cited a Nov. 6, 2012, letter from another government agency—the National Historical Commission of the Philippines—which maintained that the project did not violate any law pertaining to the Rizal Monument.

        “That is other people’s opinion,” Consunji said in an interview, referring to the NCCA’s position. “We have all the permits to build it.”

        “As far as we know, we have all the permits and licenses to develop,” he added in a separate interview.

   Groups protesting the construction of a towering condominium that they say ruins the people’s view of Jose Rizal’s monument are gearing up for a legal battle to get the building demolished.

As the construction of the 46-story Torre de Manila continued, the Knights of Rizal told the Senate on Thursday it would file a petition for injunction in the Supreme Court against the building.

Wrapping up a hearing on the condominium’s impact on the country’s heritage, Sen. Pia Cayetano recommended that the groups consult acting Solicitor General Florin Hilbay on possible legal options.

The options, she said, could involve getting the condominium demolished.

“Within the next two weeks, we will file the case to permanently stop the construction,” lawyer Willie Jasarino, member of the Knights of Rizal, said in an interview.

Pressed if this was geared to its eventual demolition, he said: “We’re shooting for the moon. We will ask for that.”

Elizabeth Espino, executive director of the National Parks Development Committee (NPDC), said the view among the groups favored demolition.

“That seems to be the consensus,” she said in an interview.

Cayetano recommended this should be one of the options of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP), NPDC and the Knights of Rizal, among others.

Cayetano advised them to consult the solicitor general.

“My recommendation to them is explore (their) options,” she said. “If our cultural heritage, these national treasures, are desecrated or the … vista points … cannot be secured and protected unless it’s demolished, then that is an option,” she told reporters.

But she added this was an option they had to study “on their own,” saying she could only make recommendations. “That’s outside my territory.”

Isidro Consunji, chair of DMCI Homes, builder of the condominium, did not respond to the committee’s invitation to attend the hearing.

The Senate committee on education, arts and culture, chaired by Cayetano, opened an inquiry into the issue after netizens and conservationists raised a hue and cry about it.

The condominium is being built right across Rizal Park.

An online Change.org petition and netizens had opposed the condominium, derisively calling it “Terror de Manila” and “Pambansang Photobomb” because it would ruin the iconic sight line of the national shrine.

At the hearing, Espino of NPDC, which oversees Rizal Park and Paco Park, asked the committee what could be done to stop the building’s continued rise at the rate of three stories a week.

She said that DMCI had 28 more floors to build.

Cayetano suggested that the NPDC, NHCP, NCCA and the Knights of Rizal meet with the solicitor general soonest and “discuss options how to find a way to stop this.”

After all, the solicitor general would represent the interest of the government, she said.

It was at this point that Jasarino of the Knights of Rizal disclosed that they would file a petition for injunction with a “prayer” for the issuance of a temporary restraining order.

Former Tourism Secretary Gemma Cruz-Araneta, a descendant of Rizal, said she was perplexed why the builders could not apply their appreciation for heritage sites abroad here in the country.

“The owners of these big companies, they went to the best schools in the Philippines and abroad. They’re the ones who travel abroad very often. And they’re the ones who marvel at the conservation works done in Europe, even in China, in Malaysia, Singapore. Why can’t they apply it here?” she said.

Cayetano said this was a matter of “political will.”

At the hearing, Cayetano observed that DMCI committed “bad faith” when it continued to build the condominium from 2012 to 2014 when its zoning permit limited construction to seven stories in terms of floor area.

Citing the testimony of resource persons, she said DMCI secured a zoning permit in June 2012 that allowed them to build only up to seven stories if the gross floor area were computed.

And DMCI was allowed to deviate from its earlier permit in an exemption granted by the Manila Zoning Board of Adjustments and approved by the city council last January, Cayetano said.

“So that means that from June 2012 to January 2014, they were in bad faith. So to me the law is very clear, if you are in bad faith, you pay for the damages of whatever cost you incurred and whatever further damages to the environment are and to other persons,” Cayetano told reporters.

Asked if she would recommend the prosecution of DMCI, she said: “If I recommend prosecution, which most likely I will, I will cite existing laws to that exten.

* * *

I am glad to admit that I do not know how crazy minds work. For instance, if you want to punish the Chinese for what they are doing to our country — taking over some of our islands and putting up airstrips in some of them, I do not understand how setting off a car  bomb in NAIA 3 will accomplish anything positive. Certainly, that will not scare the Chinese from our shores. If anything, that might even encourage them to keep up the pressure. After all, a car bomb exploding in the parking lot of the main airport of the country has to mean that the country is under attack. If the idea of the car bomb is to scare away the Chinese invading force, might it not just achieve the exact opposite.

Why would any right-thinking Filipino want to bomb his country’ main airport? Why would that serve any useful purpose  for the Philippines?

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hvp 09.08.14

Readers who missed a column can access www.duckyparedes.com/blogs. This is updated daily. Your reactions are welcome at duckyparedes@gmail.com or you can send me a message through Twitter @diretsahan.

Kanino Nga Ba ang Luneta?

Diretsahan

 

ni Horacio Paredes

 

Sumsangayon ako sa sinabi ng National Culture and the Arts (NCCA)  na hindi sila sumasangayon sa ginagawang condominium sa Taft Avenue (dulo ng Luneta Park) na pag-aari ng D.M. Consunji na aabut sa 49 palapag ang taas. Ayon sa NCCA  na bilang sila ang ahensiyang inaasahan natin sa gumagawa ng mga alitiuttunin tunkol sa kultura nababahalal sila sa ginagawang  condo na nakakaguko sa pananaw ng monumento kung saan mismo nakalibing ang ating  “national hero” na si i Jose Rizal. Dagdag pa ng NCCA: “Rizal as our hero deserves no less than a hero’s monument and sole ownership of the landscape in which he is buried and honored.”

Ang dating nakatayo sa lote na dating pag-aari ng gobiyerno ay ang Jai-Alai Building na  desenyo ng kilalalng arkitektong Americano na si Welton Beckett na gumawa rin ng Los Angeles Airport, Marami ang nganghinayang noong dinemolish ang Jai-Alai dahjil maari sanang naging sinehan, restoran o iba pa. Kakaiba rin karing gusali ana tinawag na art deco, ngunit, sinira ito at sa pagkalipas ng ilang taon ay naging pag-aari ng pamilyang Consunji.

Ayon naman sa DMCI, kumpleto ang kanilang mga permit sa kanilang tinatayong gusali.

Magandang pag-isipan kung sino ba ang dapat na sinusunod — ang NCCA o ang nakabili ng lupain sa Taft Avenue na kung patayuan ng 49 palapag na condo ay papatayin ang vista mula sa Manila Bay ng monumento ni Rizal. Kung ng masusunod ay ang mga Knights of Rizal kasama si Senadora Pia Cayetano. kanilang ipapasibak ang nasimulan ng gusaling tinatyo ng DM Consunji dahil sa masisisra ang tanawin ng monumento ni Rizal.

Ang mga pamilya namang Consunji na madalas na  nagbibiyahe sa iba’t ibang parte ng mundo, baket parang hindi nila naiisip na kapag kanilang pinagpatuloy ang kanilang plano ay masisira ang  vista sa kaisa-isang monumento natin sa ating bansa na dinadayo ng mga bumibisita sa at tinatanggap ng lahat na ang kapalit ng pag-alay niya ng kaniyang buhay sa kalayaan nating mga Pilipino.

Para sa akin, kung kinakailangang gibain ang pinipilit ipatayo ng mga Consunji na labag sa pananaw ng nakakarami at ng ating inaalay na pagdandal kay Gat Jose Rizal, dapat lamang na giabain!

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hvp (09.08.14)

 

Readers who missed a column can access www.duckyparedes.com/blogs. This is updated daily. Your reactions are welcome at duckyparedes@gmail.com or you can send me a message through Twitter @diretsahan.

That Dog Fight at Makati City Hall

Malaya 09.08.14

 

That Vera and PAACL are but attack dogs of the Binays is betrayed by the phony nature of the graft charges against the Cayetanos and Taguig’s alderpersons.

 


 

by Ducky Paredes

 

Pre-election fever took over the Senate on the heels of an inquiry initiated by Sen. Antonio Trillanes on the alleged PhP 2 billion overprice of the P2.7-billion 11-storey Makati City parking building that the senators  claim should have cost only P700 million under current construction-cost estimates.

The Binays—from Vice President Jejomar Binay to his two legislator-daughters Senator Nancy and Congresswoman Abigail and son Mayor Jejomar Erwin Jr.—act as one in dismissing  the Senate inquiry as a politically motivated hatchet job done by lawyer-complainant Renato Bondal who belongs to a “political demolition team” targeting the Vice President.

Taking their cue from the Binays, partisans tried to knock the wind from the probe’s sails by filing on the same day graft charges against Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano and his mayor-wife Lani of Taguig City before the Office of the Ombudsman.

Clearly the the graft complainant of the Philippine Association for the Advancement of Civil Liberties Inc. (PAACL) comes from the Binays to counter the investigation started by  the Nacionalista Party (NP) tandem of Senators Cayetano and Trillanes to bring down the the front-running Vice-Presudent who leads the 2016 presidential race.

As the Senate probe into the overpriced Makati building began,  PAACLI president Roderick Vera filed before the Ombudsman:

 (1) a graft charge against Cayetano for alleged misuse of P9 million of his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) funds to buy 18 “overpriced” multi-cabs for Taguig City;

 (2) another graft charge against the senator for alleged misuse of PDAF funds on ghost projects in the Taguig barangays of Lingid, Calzada and Maharlika; and

  (3) a graft charge against Mayor Cayetano and her city’s 16 councilors for alleged misuse of P313.249 million in City Hall funds on 3,188 ghost employees.

But Vera’s and PAACL’s coming out of the woodwork on the very day that a Senate blueribbon subcommittee chaired by Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III kicked off its Makati City Hall probe seems to prove  only that this was a demolition job unleashed by the Binays.

Consider this: Vera has been a close friend of Rep. Abigail or “Abby” Binay since their law school days at the Ateneo de Manila.

This self-styled graft buster is in fact so close to Abigail that he belongs to her exclusive Thursday Club barkada—along with the congresswoman’s chief of staff Mysty Mendoza and lawyers Martin Subido and Fhilip Sawali. They —that meet regularly at Abigail’s home (No. 53 76th Kamias Street, Dasmarinas Village.)

PAACL is the same group that protested the appointment as Comelec commissioner of Al Parreno, a Liberal Party (LP) nominee identified with Binay’s archrival Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II.

PAACL was also vocal about the alleged special treatment by Roxas of the police force of Delfin Lee during his arrest in connection with the Globe Asiatique Realty Holding Corp. case.

The only other person identified with PAACL is Sawali, the Thursday Club member who was the beadle of Abigail Binay’s Ateneo law class of 2001.

Talk is that the demolition jobs against the Binays’ political enemies are being run by the congresswoman’s law firm—Subido Pagente Certeza Mendoza and Binay (SPCMB)—that is based in Legaspi Village in Makati.

Subido and Mendoza used to work at the former Carpio Villaraza and Cruz, once known as The Firm, before eventually leaving CVC to join Congresswoman Abby in Congress.

 That Vera and PAACL are nothing but attack dogs of the Binays is betrayed by the phony nature of the graft charges against the Cayetanos and Taguig’s alderpersons.

 First, PAACL claimed the 18 multi-cabs were overpriced because each was bought by the city government for P498,000 apiece as against the P229,000 rate claimed by Mayor “Jun-Jun” Binay and a lower P190,000 as claimed by Vera himself in his PAACL complaint.

This charge is fake and a case of mislabelling because Taguig’s City Hall bought brand-new air-conditioned units for P498,000 that were used as  ambulances. What the complainant referred to is the acquisition cost for refurbished, second-hand units with no air-conditioning equipment, the cheaper multi-cabs that Makati gives out to its barangays.

Second, PAACL claims that the Commission on Audit (COA) questioned the release of P313.249 million in city government’s Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses (MOOE) funds for 3,188 ghost employees in 2012.

Both points—the COA report and the hiring of ghost employees—are false. There was no mention of any ghost employee in the COA report for 2012, much less any question by auditors on the use of city government funds for Job Order (JO) personnel.

 The COA found nothing irregular about the hiring of such workers doing regular tasks amid the shortage of permanent personnel, and even noted in the 2012 report that City Hall had prepared the payrolls for these workers on the basis of the biometric machine readings of daily time records of the existing plantilla positions.

So, if there are biometric machine records of these employees’ daily work attendance, where exactly are the ghost employees that Vera and PAACL complain about in the graft charge?

In fact, what the COA stated in the 2012 report was that in response to the Commission’s observation in 2007 on City Hall’s lack of personnel, Taguig City  government hired 3,188 JO personnel in the city’s various development programs “to augment the present workforce.”

COA points out that the city government is looking into revising its current plantilla position to address this concern over the lack of permanent staff, but added that such an effort will take long because “it will entail a lot of time due to Civil Service requirements and procedures.”

 A total of 1,258 were assigned or deployed to the Business Development and Information Technology Program; another 1,007 to the Project Management and Infra Development Program; and 923 more to the Community Welfare and Development Program, notes the COA.

COA noted in the 2012 report that: “Verification disclosed that the personnel in the above-mentioned programs were actually assigned/deployed to different Offices in the absence or lack of regular personnel performing regular functions/services. Management justified that job order services are needed to implement and facilitate its various programs, though, the City is now considering the revision of the existing plantilla positions to address the said concern. However, it will entail a lot of time due to Civil Service requirements and procedures.”

  “It is worth mentioning,” added the COA report, “that the biometric machine readings of daily time records were the basis of the HRMO in the preparation of payrolls for these personnel. For those not using the biometric machine, the manual time records are the basis of the payroll preparation. Payroll payments are through Land Bank of the Philippines Automated Teller Machine.”

The graft charge about the alleged misuse of Cayetano’s P165 million in PDAF allocations is similarly a hoax because more than P162 million of the said pork for Taguig City were actually combined outlays from Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile when he was still Senate President, ex-Speaker Prospero Nograles and former Taguig Rep. Henry Duenas.

Cayetano’s PDAF outlay that was mentioned by COA in the report only totaled P2.6 million of the P165-million pork allocations for Taguig, and it only referred to delayed documentation of the project.

“Probably , the Vice President is in panic  mode already because he knows  we’re getting closer to the truth,”  Trillanes said the day after the follow-up hearing.

Trillanes also vowed to pursue the probe despite VP Binay’s “attempts” to stop it by trying to get public sympathy.

Mayor Jun-Jun Binay was so fidgety as he tried—but failed—to explain before the Senate blueribbon subcommittee last Aug. 20 that there was no overprice and that the COA had found nothing wrong with it.

In fact, the mayor seemed too dazed and confused during the hearing that at one point, under Cayetano’s grilling, Binay admitted the possibility of an overprice in this P2.7-billion Makati project.

 Asked by the senator if it was possible there was an overprice by his underlings and that he was just not aware of it, Binay surprisingly replied: “There will be a possibility, your Honor. You’re right sir.”

At the very least, the mayor’s obviously uninformed answers to questions about the project indicated that he was not a hands-on chief executive and simply relied on the city government’s engineers to do infrastructure projects on their own without guidance or supervision.

Binay told the subcommittee that city engineers had briefed him about what needed to be done next and about the cost of the project, adding that, “We’ll have to rely on them, on their findings and recommendations.”

 “I’m the last to sign,” said the mayor in a news report.

If Binay had been on top of things with regard to this controversial project, it would have been impossible for him to miss that the project costs reported to him by the city engineers were way, way beyond the prevailing market rates.

As pointed out by defeated mayoralty bet Renato Bondal during the Aug. 20 hearing, the Makati parking building cost P84,000 per square meter, based on the P2.7 billion budget for the 31,900-square-meter edifice.

This is definitely way too much for a parking building, considering that Bondal had bared that this construction cost is about double the P2 billion budget for the posh 46-storey Shang Grand Tower (about P40,000 per sq. m.) and P2.8 billion for the 57-storey Greenbelt Residences (or P45,000 per sq. m.)

Federico Cuervo, a property appraiser from Cuervo Valuers & Advisory, pegged during the public hearing at P23,000 (based on 2007 prices) the average cost of a building in the city’s Barangay Poblacion, where the parking building now stands. And this, he said, was for a “Grade A” building and not just for a parking structure.

Citing figures from the Davis, Langdon and Seah (DLS) construction cost handbook—which is used in the Philippines—Cayetano said during the first hearing that a mere parking building should have cost only P12,000 to P18,000 per sq. m., an average standard office should cost between P26,900 and P33,000 per sq. m., and first-rate office should range from P30,000 to P37,000 per sq. m.

During the follow-up hearing last Aug. 26, architect Arnel Colcol of the Philippine Institute of Architects told Cayetano that a great majority of architects are familiar with and use this DLS handbook, particularly those involved in higher valued construction like the quantity surveyors who represent the owners of buildings under construction when it comes to reviewing contracts and budgeting the necessary allocations for line items.

Mayor Binay’s spiel about the project getting the COA’s seal of approval turned out to be a lie when COA chairperson Grace Pulido Tan herself said during the Aug. 20 hearing that the COA would conduct a special audit of the building’s construction amid “red flags” such as the division of the project into 5 phases—called “chop-chop” by Bondal—and the quick award of all 5 projects to the same contractor.

 Tan noted that for Phase 1 of this parking building project covering a P400-million contract—it was started in 2007 when Vice President Binay was still the mayor—the entire process from the budget allocation to the public bidding and to its award to winning bidder Hilmarcs Construction Corp. was completed in a record of just two-and-a-half months.

 “In our experience, a project of this magnitude and complexity would normally take at least six months or even a year to procure,” Tan said during the hearing.

Tan noted that a city ordinance setting aside P400 million for Phase 1 was approved on Nov. 8, 2000. This project was bid out on Dec. 28, 2007, and then awarded to Hilmarcs Corp. on Jan. 18, 2008.

Hilmarcs Corp. also won the contracts for the four subsequent project phases covering the same parking building.

In last weeek’s follow-up hearing, Tan questioned why over P1 billion was still appropriated for the building for Phases 4 and 5 of the project even if the COA’s technical audit specialists and engineers assessed in 2011 that it was already “habitable and ready for use” after Phase 3 of the construction.

Pagkakumpleto ng Phase 3, and this was after spending about P1.5 billion, [the] project [was] habitable na and ready for use,” she said. “And yet nagkaroon ng Phase 4 and Phase 5, na kung saan nag-appropriate ang city of Makati ng more than P1 billion pa rin.”

Given that the nature of work done in every phase of the five-part construction work was not clearly defined, Pulido told the subcommiittee that a COA team is now being formed to conduct a special audit of this project.

Bondal has his own take on the points raised by the COA chairperson. He said, ““There was no bidding for the P2.7-billion Makati carpark building… The real cost of the building will only be known after it has been completed because it was chopped into phases.”

 “Makati could be called the chop-chop capital of the Philippines,” he said during the first hearing.

The Binays are possibly on tenterhooks right now as more testimonial evidence were gathered from ex-Vice Mayor Ernesto Mercado plus Makati City resident auditors and Binay officials in-charge of the project during the follow-up Aug. 26 hearing that confirmed the spate of irregularities attending the parking building.

These officials who appeared clueless on the details of the project included former assistant city engineer Line dela Peña, former Makati City Administrator Marjorie De Veyra, Makati City Administrator Eleno Mendoza and COA engineers Cecilio Pineda, Allan Florentino, Zaldy Lavarro, Roldan Menciano and Flora Ruiz.

Moreover, the Binays are bracing for the possibility of the investigation spilling over to more hanky-panky deals involving other City Hall multimillion or billion-peso projects like the Makati City Hall itself, Ospital ng Makati and the Makati City Science High School.

The Senate subcommittee’s discovery of the “chop-chop” or subdivided construction of the P2.7-billion parking building could—in the words of Sen. Pimentel—“open a Pandora’s box,” given that a number of the Makati government’s infrastructure projects were similarly carried out in phases.

For Cayetano’s allies, this was the reason why the Binay camp had cooked up the graft charges against the senator and his wife as a desperate attempt to divert public attention from the controversy that now threatens to open a can of worms at the Makati City Hall from the time the Veep was mayor.

 “The allegations are simply not true and this was clearly just meant to distract people from the Binay’s corruption hearing later today,” said Taguig City Councilor Darwin Icay on the day that Nancy’s pal Vera and the PAACL had filed the graft charges.

 “Any citizen has a right to file charges but the politics in this are clear – lawyer  Rod Vera is a law school classmate of Rep. Binay and this law  firm with close ties to VP Binay,” added Icay. “The organization was also used as a shadow organization that attacked Secretary Roxas during the Delfin Lee arrest. Their agenda is clear: make up bogus charges to divert attention from the ongoing investigation into the Binay’s corruption scandal involving the overpriced Makati parking building. These are purely lies based on maliciously distorted facts.”

Icay said that, “The City of Taguig made a smart investment in acquiring these new ambulances and emergency response vehicles – they will help. Contrary to Mayor Binay’s claim, these vehicles were not refurbished. We’re making a lot of smart investments to build for the future, including free education, medicine for our seniors and families, and creating jobs.”

The councilor noted that the COA itself had no questions on the purchase of 18 brand new mini-ambulances and fire trucks by the city, “a project funded by Senator Cayetano’s Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) allocation, as part of the Cayetano couple’s commitment to make every Taguigeño feel like a VIP in his or her city.”

Former socio-economic planning secretary Solita Monsod has a different take on this controversy.

For Monsod, even if the Binay camp’s claim that the graft complaints against them the Veep and Mayor Binay were indeed politically motivated, it doesn’t necessarily mean that such charges are not true and should not be believed.

  “The bukol is as much as P2 billion, which is a lot of money,” wrote Monsod in her Aug. 23 column in a major daily. “Even if that bukol were only P200 million or even just P50 million, that is criminal plunder of the money of the people of Makati, which should be looked into and duly punished. Let’s not forget that. And other charges as well.”

# # # #

hvp 09.07.14

Readers who missed a column can access www.duckyparedes.com/blogs. This is updated daily. Your reactions are welcome at duckyparedes@gmail.com or you can send me a message through Twitter @diretsahan.

That Dog Fight at Makati City Hall

That Vera and PAACL are but attack dogs of the Binays is betrayed by the phony nature of the graft charges against the Cayetanos and Taguig’s alderpersons.

 


 

by Ducky Paredes

 

Pre-election fever took over the Senate on the heels of an inquiry initiated by Sen. Antonio Trillanes on the alleged PhP 2 billion overprice of the P2.7-billion 11-storey Makati City parking building that the senators  claim should have cost only P700 million under current construction-cost estimates.

The Binays—from Vice President Jejomar Binay to his two legislator-daughters Senator Nancy and Congresswoman Abigail and son Mayor Jejomar Erwin Jr.—act as one in dismissing  the Senate inquiry as a politically motivated hatchet job done by lawyer-complainant Renato Bondal who belongs to a “political demolition team” targeting the Vice President.

Taking their cue from the Binays, partisans tried to knock the wind from the probe’s sails by filing on the same day graft charges against Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano and his mayor-wife Lani of Taguig City before the Office of the Ombudsman.

Clearly the the graft complainant of the Philippine Association for the Advancement of Civil Liberties Inc. (PAACL) comes from the Binays to counter the investigation started by  the Nacionalista Party (NP) tandem of Senators Cayetano and Trillanes to bring down the the front-running Vice-Presudent who leads the 2016 presidential race.

As the Senate probe into the overpriced Makati building began,  PAACLI president Roderick Vera filed before the Ombudsman:

 (1) a graft charge against Cayetano for alleged misuse of P9 million of his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) funds to buy 18 “overpriced” multi-cabs for Taguig City;

 (2) another graft charge against the senator for alleged misuse of PDAF funds on ghost projects in the Taguig barangays of Lingid, Calzada and Maharlika; and

  (3) a graft charge against Mayor Cayetano and her city’s 16 councilors for alleged misuse of P313.249 million in City Hall funds on 3,188 ghost employees.

But Vera’s and PAACL’s coming out of the woodwork on the very day that a Senate blueribbon subcommittee chaired by Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III kicked off its Makati City Hall probe seems to prove  only that this was a demolition job unleashed by the Binays.

Consider this: Vera has been a close friend of Rep. Abigail or “Abby” Binay since their law school days at the Ateneo de Manila.

This self-styled graft buster is in fact so close to Abigail that he belongs to her exclusive Thursday Club barkada—along with the congresswoman’s chief of staff Mysty Mendoza and lawyers Martin Subido and Fhilip Sawali. They —that meet regularly at Abigail’s home (No. 53 76th Kamias Street, Dasmarinas Village.)

PAACL is the same group that protested the appointment as Comelec commissioner of Al Parreno, a Liberal Party (LP) nominee identified with Binay’s archrival Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II.

PAACL was also vocal about the alleged special treatment by Roxas of the police force of Delfin Lee during his arrest in connection with the Globe Asiatique Realty Holding Corp. case.

The only other person identified with PAACL is Sawali, the Thursday Club member who was the beadle of Abigail Binay’s Ateneo law class of 2001.

Talk is that the demolition jobs against the Binays’ political enemies are being run by the congresswoman’s law firm—Subido Pagente Certeza Mendoza and Binay (SPCMB)—that is based in Legaspi Village in Makati.

Subido and Mendoza used to work at the former Carpio Villaraza and Cruz, once known as The Firm, before eventually leaving CVC to join Congresswoman Abby in Congress.

 That Vera and PAACL are nothing but attack dogs of the Binays is betrayed by the phony nature of the graft charges against the Cayetanos and Taguig’s alderpersons.

 First, PAACL claimed the 18 multi-cabs were overpriced because each was bought by the city government for P498,000 apiece as against the P229,000 rate claimed by Mayor “Jun-Jun” Binay and a lower P190,000 as claimed by Vera himself in his PAACL complaint.

This charge is fake and a case of mislabelling because Taguig’s City Hall bought brand-new air-conditioned units for P498,000 that were used as  ambulances. What the complainant referred to is the acquisition cost for refurbished, second-hand units with no air-conditioning equipment, the cheaper multi-cabs that Makati gives out to its barangays.

Second, PAACL claims that the Commission on Audit (COA) questioned the release of P313.249 million in city government’s Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses (MOOE) funds for 3,188 ghost employees in 2012.

Both points—the COA report and the hiring of ghost employees—are false. There was no mention of any ghost employee in the COA report for 2012, much less any question by auditors on the use of city government funds for Job Order (JO) personnel.

 The COA found nothing irregular about the hiring of such workers doing regular tasks amid the shortage of permanent personnel, and even noted in the 2012 report that City Hall had prepared the payrolls for these workers on the basis of the biometric machine readings of daily time records of the existing plantilla positions.

So, if there are biometric machine records of these employees’ daily work attendance, where exactly are the ghost employees that Vera and PAACL complain about in the graft charge?

In fact, what the COA stated in the 2012 report was that in response to the Commission’s observation in 2007 on City Hall’s lack of personnel, Taguig City  government hired 3,188 JO personnel in the city’s various development programs “to augment the present workforce.”

COA points out that the city government is looking into revising its current plantilla position to address this concern over the lack of permanent staff, but added that such an effort will take long because “it will entail a lot of time due to Civil Service requirements and procedures.”

 A total of 1,258 were assigned or deployed to the Business Development and Information Technology Program; another 1,007 to the Project Management and Infra Development Program; and 923 more to the Community Welfare and Development Program, notes the COA.

COA noted in the 2012 report that: “Verification disclosed that the personnel in the above-mentioned programs were actually assigned/deployed to different Offices in the absence or lack of regular personnel performing regular functions/services. Management justified that job order services are needed to implement and facilitate its various programs, though, the City is now considering the revision of the existing plantilla positions to address the said concern. However, it will entail a lot of time due to Civil Service requirements and procedures.”

  “It is worth mentioning,” added the COA report, “that the biometric machine readings of daily time records were the basis of the HRMO in the preparation of payrolls for these personnel. For those not using the biometric machine, the manual time records are the basis of the payroll preparation. Payroll payments are through Land Bank of the Philippines Automated Teller Machine.”

The graft charge about the alleged misuse of Cayetano’s P165 million in PDAF allocations is similarly a hoax because more than P162 million of the said pork for Taguig City were actually combined outlays from Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile when he was still Senate President, ex-Speaker Prospero Nograles and former Taguig Rep. Henry Duenas.

Cayetano’s PDAF outlay that was mentioned by COA in the report only totaled P2.6 million of the P165-million pork allocations for Taguig, and it only referred to delayed documentation of the project.

“Probably , the Vice President is in panic  mode already because he knows  we’re getting closer to the truth,”  Trillanes said the day after the follow-up hearing.

Trillanes also vowed to pursue the probe despite VP Binay’s “attempts” to stop it by trying to get public sympathy.

Mayor Jun-Jun Binay was so fidgety as he tried—but failed—to explain before the Senate blueribbon subcommittee last Aug. 20 that there was no overprice and that the COA had found nothing wrong with it.

In fact, the mayor seemed too dazed and confused during the hearing that at one point, under Cayetano’s grilling, Binay admitted the possibility of an overprice in this P2.7-billion Makati project.

 Asked by the senator if it was possible there was an overprice by his underlings and that he was just not aware of it, Binay surprisingly replied: “There will be a possibility, your Honor. You’re right sir.”

At the very least, the mayor’s obviously uninformed answers to questions about the project indicated that he was not a hands-on chief executive and simply relied on the city government’s engineers to do infrastructure projects on their own without guidance or supervision.

Binay told the subcommittee that city engineers had briefed him about what needed to be done next and about the cost of the project, adding that, “We’ll have to rely on them, on their findings and recommendations.”

 “I’m the last to sign,” said the mayor in a news report.

If Binay had been on top of things with regard to this controversial project, it would have been impossible for him to miss that the project costs reported to him by the city engineers were way, way beyond the prevailing market rates.

As pointed out by defeated mayoralty bet Renato Bondal during the Aug. 20 hearing, the Makati parking building cost P84,000 per square meter, based on the P2.7 billion budget for the 31,900-square-meter edifice.

This is definitely way too much for a parking building, considering that Bondal had bared that this construction cost is about double the P2 billion budget for the posh 46-storey Shang Grand Tower (about P40,000 per sq. m.) and P2.8 billion for the 57-storey Greenbelt Residences (or P45,000 per sq. m.)

Federico Cuervo, a property appraiser from Cuervo Valuers & Advisory, pegged during the public hearing at P23,000 (based on 2007 prices) the average cost of a building in the city’s Barangay Poblacion, where the parking building now stands. And this, he said, was for a “Grade A” building and not just for a parking structure.

Citing figures from the Davis, Langdon and Seah (DLS) construction cost handbook—which is used in the Philippines—Cayetano said during the first hearing that a mere parking building should have cost only P12,000 to P18,000 per sq. m., an average standard office should cost between P26,900 and P33,000 per sq. m., and first-rate office should range from P30,000 to P37,000 per sq. m.

During the follow-up hearing last Aug. 26, architect Arnel Colcol of the Philippine Institute of Architects told Cayetano that a great majority of architects are familiar with and use this DLS handbook, particularly those involved in higher valued construction like the quantity surveyors who represent the owners of buildings under construction when it comes to reviewing contracts and budgeting the necessary allocations for line items.

Mayor Binay’s spiel about the project getting the COA’s seal of approval turned out to be a lie when COA chairperson Grace Pulido Tan herself said during the Aug. 20 hearing that the COA would conduct a special audit of the building’s construction amid “red flags” such as the division of the project into 5 phases—called “chop-chop” by Bondal—and the quick award of all 5 projects to the same contractor.

 Tan noted that for Phase 1 of this parking building project covering a P400-million contract—it was started in 2007 when Vice President Binay was still the mayor—the entire process from the budget allocation to the public bidding and to its award to winning bidder Hilmarcs Construction Corp. was completed in a record of just two-and-a-half months.

 “In our experience, a project of this magnitude and complexity would normally take at least six months or even a year to procure,” Tan said during the hearing.

Tan noted that a city ordinance setting aside P400 million for Phase 1 was approved on Nov. 8, 2000. This project was bid out on Dec. 28, 2007, and then awarded to Hilmarcs Corp. on Jan. 18, 2008.

Hilmarcs Corp. also won the contracts for the four subsequent project phases covering the same parking building.

In last weeek’s follow-up hearing, Tan questioned why over P1 billion was still appropriated for the building for Phases 4 and 5 of the project even if the COA’s technical audit specialists and engineers assessed in 2011 that it was already “habitable and ready for use” after Phase 3 of the construction.

Pagkakumpleto ng Phase 3, and this was after spending about P1.5 billion, [the] project [was] habitable na and ready for use,” she said. “And yet nagkaroon ng Phase 4 and Phase 5, na kung saan nag-appropriate ang city of Makati ng more than P1 billion pa rin.”

Given that the nature of work done in every phase of the five-part construction work was not clearly defined, Pulido told the subcommiittee that a COA team is now being formed to conduct a special audit of this project.

Bondal has his own take on the points raised by the COA chairperson. He said, ““There was no bidding for the P2.7-billion Makati carpark building… The real cost of the building will only be known after it has been completed because it was chopped into phases.”

 “Makati could be called the chop-chop capital of the Philippines,” he said during the first hearing.

The Binays are possibly on tenterhooks right now as more testimonial evidence were gathered from ex-Vice Mayor Ernesto Mercado plus Makati City resident auditors and Binay officials in-charge of the project during the follow-up Aug. 26 hearing that confirmed the spate of irregularities attending the parking building.

These officials who appeared clueless on the details of the project included former assistant city engineer Line dela Peña, former Makati City Administrator Marjorie De Veyra, Makati City Administrator Eleno Mendoza and COA engineers Cecilio Pineda, Allan Florentino, Zaldy Lavarro, Roldan Menciano and Flora Ruiz.

Moreover, the Binays are bracing for the possibility of the investigation spilling over to more hanky-panky deals involving other City Hall multimillion or billion-peso projects like the Makati City Hall itself, Ospital ng Makati and the Makati City Science High School.

The Senate subcommittee’s discovery of the “chop-chop” or subdivided construction of the P2.7-billion parking building could—in the words of Sen. Pimentel—“open a Pandora’s box,” given that a number of the Makati government’s infrastructure projects were similarly carried out in phases.

For Cayetano’s allies, this was the reason why the Binay camp had cooked up the graft charges against the senator and his wife as a desperate attempt to divert public attention from the controversy that now threatens to open a can of worms at the Makati City Hall from the time the Veep was mayor.

 “The allegations are simply not true and this was clearly just meant to distract people from the Binay’s corruption hearing later today,” said Taguig City Councilor Darwin Icay on the day that Nancy’s pal Vera and the PAACL had filed the graft charges.

 “Any citizen has a right to file charges but the politics in this are clear – lawyer  Rod Vera is a law school classmate of Rep. Binay and this law  firm with close ties to VP Binay,” added Icay. “The organization was also used as a shadow organization that attacked Secretary Roxas during the Delfin Lee arrest. Their agenda is clear: make up bogus charges to divert attention from the ongoing investigation into the Binay’s corruption scandal involving the overpriced Makati parking building. These are purely lies based on maliciously distorted facts.”

Icay said that, “The City of Taguig made a smart investment in acquiring these new ambulances and emergency response vehicles – they will help. Contrary to Mayor Binay’s claim, these vehicles were not refurbished. We’re making a lot of smart investments to build for the future, including free education, medicine for our seniors and families, and creating jobs.”

The councilor noted that the COA itself had no questions on the purchase of 18 brand new mini-ambulances and fire trucks by the city, “a project funded by Senator Cayetano’s Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) allocation, as part of the Cayetano couple’s commitment to make every Taguigeño feel like a VIP in his or her city.”

Former socio-economic planning secretary Solita Monsod has a different take on this controversy.

For Monsod, even if the Binay camp’s claim that the graft complaints against them the Veep and Mayor Binay were indeed politically motivated, it doesn’t necessarily mean that such charges are not true and should not be believed.

  “The bukol is as much as P2 billion, which is a lot of money,” wrote Monsod in her Aug. 23 column in a major daily. “Even if that bukol were only P200 million or even just P50 million, that is criminal plunder of the money of the people of Makati, which should be looked into and duly punished. Let’s not forget that. And other charges as well.”

# # # #

hvp 09.07.14

Readers who missed a column can access www.duckyparedes.com/blogs. This is updated daily. Your reactions are welcome at duckyparedes@gmail.com or you can send me a message through Twitter @diretsahan.

Ang Papaplit kay PNoy

Diretsahan

 


ni Horacio Paredes

 

   Dapat nang payagan nating bumalik sa pagka-Pangulo ang ating Presidente  sa 2016? Ang aking sagot, kahit na baka ang pumalit sa kaniya ay pulitikong pinagdududahan ng marami na yumama habang naglilingkod sa bayan ay ganoon pa rin. Nang tumakbo siya sa pagka-Pangulo nalalaman niyang isang termino na anim  na taon lamang ang kaniyang pinasukan. Kung kinulang ito. sori na lang. Kung hindi pa tapos ang gusto niya sanang gawain, wala tayong magagawa. Kung hindi niya nagugustohan ang maaaring pumalit sa kaniya, anong magagawa natin? Mas maganda nga sana kung kaniyang pinaghandaan ang katapusan ng kaniyang paglingkod bilang pngulo at inihanda niya ang papalit sa kaniya. Ito sana ay si Mar Roxas,ngunit, hindi naman tinanggap ng tao. Kaya ayan,  kung sino ang piliin ng mamamayan, iyon ang mgagiging Pangulo.

Sayang, dahil talaga nga namang napakaganda ng balita  makaraang makakuha ng upgrade sa rating sa dalawang international group na indikasyon umano na nagbubu­nga na ang repormang sinimulan ni Pangulong Benigno ‘Noynoy’ Aquino III sa nagdaang apat na taon.

Tumaas ng pitong puntos ang ranking ng Pilipinas sa Global Competitiveness Report ng World Economic Forum (WEF).

Ang Pilipinas ay ika-52 na sa 140 bansa sa mundo sa WEF report para sa taong 2014-2015 mula sa dating ika-59 noong nakaraang taon at umaabot na sa 33 notches ang itinaas nito simula noong 2010 kaya maituturing ang ating Pinas na most improved country.

 “The latest survey registered improvements in macroeconomic environment and institutions, as well as ethics and corruption — citing the reforms over the past four years as having bolstered our economic growth,” pagmamalaki ng Malakanyang.

Sayang. Dapat sanang napaghandaan ni PNoy ang kaniyang pag-alis upang ang makapalit sa kaniya ay kung sino man ang kaniyang  napili. Ngunit, hindi na ito mangyayari at malamang na sa 2016, pag-upo ng kung sino man ang uupong Pangulo’y malamang na makakaramdam tayo ng biglang pagbaba, lalo na’t kung ang papalit ay balik sa dating pulitika’t gawain.

* * *

Matapang na sinabi ni Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang na wawakasan na sa loob ng isang taon ang New People’s Army (NPA) para lubos na makausad na umano ang economic development ng bansa lalo na sa kanayunan.

 “Ang aking target ay ideklara na ang buong bansa na payapa na at lubusang handa na para sa pag-unlad bago ako bumaba sa aking puwesto.

Ang mangyari nga ay mas mapaaga pa kaysa sa isang taon at hindi na aabot pa sa campaign plan natin na hanggang 2016 bago bumaba sa puwesto ang Pangulo,” ang walang kaabug-abog at buong tapang na sagot ni Catapang nang siya’y tanungin kung ano ang plano niya sa NPA.

Kumpara kay Catapang, ang dating AFP chief na si retired Gen. Emmanuel Bautista ay tila mas naging maingat sa pagbi­bitaw ng “fearless forecast” pagdating sa pag­lipol ng NPA tangan ang Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) o Oplan Bayanihan, ang bagong counter­insurgency program ng AFP.

Kinumpirma na kahapon sa ma­kapangyarihang Commission on Appointments (CA) ang “appointment” ni Catapang at 51 iba pang opi­syal ng militar. Sana naman ay matupad ito ng ating militar. Sa MAlaysia at Indonesia ay matagal nang natigilin nila ang mga komunista. Dapat sa atin tin sa Pilipinas ay matagal na ring nawala ang mga komunista. Sana’y kayang ipatupad ni Catapang ang kaniyang pinapangako.

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hvp (09.05.14)

 

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