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Friday, October 31, 2014

Drilon in Trouble Over 'OverPriced' Building

Senate President Franklin Drilon and nine others were charged yesterday with plunder and graft over the alleged overpriced construction of the Iloilo Convention Center (ICC).
Included in the 18-page criminal and administrative complaints filed by former Iloilo Provincial Administrator Manuel Mejorada before the Office of the Ombudsman were Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson; Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr.; Tourism Director Mark Lapid; Public Works Undersecretary Jaime Pacanan, chairman of the DPWH national bids and awards committee (BAC); Public Works Undersecretary Romeo Momo; Iloilo Public Works Regional Director Edilberto Tayao; Marilyn Celiz; Iloilo regional chairman of the DPWH BAC; William Coscoluella, president of William Coscolluela & Associates, which is the architect of the ICC; and Efren Canlas, president of Hilmarcs Construction.
Last month, former Iloilo Congressman Augusto Syjuco Jr. also filed plunder charges against Drilon, Jimenez, Singson, and other public officials including President Aquino arising from the same alleged overpriced construction of the ICC.
Only last month, former Iloilo congressman Augusto Syjuco Jr. filed plunder charges against Drilon, Jimenez Jr., Singson, and other public officials, including President Aquino, arising from the same alleged overpriced construction of the ICC. 

But Drilon slammed the plunder and graft charges, saying these are just malicious suits, while the DPWH maintained that the construction of the P700-million Iloilo Convention Center, located in Megaworld’s Iloilo Business Park in Mandurriao, Iloilo City, is within standards and not overpriced.
Mejorada, in his complaint, said that Drilon announced in April, 2012, the building of the convention center at the cost of only P300 million, or P30,000 per square meter, with the funds coming from his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and the Department of Tourism (DOT). But he said the construction cost was revised several times to reach almost P500 million.
Mejorada, who used to work as a “consultant” of Drilon, stressed that construction of the building is not yet complete, adding “the contract price covers only the shell structure, basically the civil works for the project.”
He claimed that once the ICC is completed, it would be overpriced by more than P487 million because with a total floor area of 6,400 square meters, the unit cost for the construction and completion of the establishment will amount to P106,226 per square meter.
But Drilon maintained the construction and bidding of the ICC was above board, saying allegations it is overpriced is “ridiculous.”
“(That’s) ridiculous. The total cost of the ICC is around P700 million. Kung sasabihin mo na yung overprice ay P487 million, ang matitira na lang, around P220 million. Yaan po ay 11,600 square meters of an international convention center (standards). Samakatuwid, ang sinasabi niya, ang project per square meter ay around P18,000 lang which is quite ridiculous. It just shows how ridiculous his claims are,” Drilon told reporters in an interview.
“There was nothing overpriced. The bidding procedures on the project were strictly followed,” Momo said.
Last August 27, Drilon filed a libel case against Mejorada at the Pasay City Prosecutor’s Office. Mejorada maintains a WordPress blog which carries stories of the alleged overpriced projects of the Senate leader in Iloilo City.
Mejorada said Drilon was the principal respondent for the case for pushing “the funding of the contract from his PDAF and the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).”
“He (Drilon) presumed to have harvested the fruits of the anomalous expenditures way above what can be considered reasonable for the construction of the project,” Mejorada added.
The BAC officers were included in the charge sheet for recommending the award of the negotiated contract to Hilmarcs, the same contractor that built the now controversial Makati City Hall Building II.
Drilon said the building would be used in the APEC ministerial meetings in October of 2015.
The Senate president also said Mejorada had asked him before to recommend him as a press undersecretary in Malacañang or a regional director at the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.
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