Below is my press statement in reaction to the initiative of Senator Koko Pimental to cut short the Blue Ribbon Committee investigation into the anomalous Iloilo Convention Center project:
Is the Liberal Party declaring “no mas” in the face of emerging evidence validating my assertions that the bidding and implementation of the Iloilo Convention Center was marred by irregularities such as rigging of the bid and overpricing?
That is the signal being sent by the move of Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III to bring the Blue Ribbon Committee investigation into these issues to an abrupt halt.
Far from the claim of Senate President Franklin Drilon and his party mates that I failed to present evidence to back up my allegations, I have proof and this was strengthened by the testimonies of DPWH Secretary Rogelio Singson and DOT Secretary Ramon Jimenez in last Thursday’s hearing.
On the issue of overpricing:
1) In computing the unit cost for the building, Singson included the roof deck area to arrive at a figure of 11,900 sqm. Even assuming that this is true, the unit cost is still P63,000 per sqm, which is more than double the industry standard of P30,000 per sqm. Singson insists the industry standard cannot be applied to government infrastructure. But he could not explain why it is more than double the P26,000 per sqm. of the SMX n the Mall of Asia.
2. The real floor area of the ICC is 8,932 sqm. based on the Invitation to Bid published by the DPWH in the Manila Standard Today on July 5, 2013 in describing the scope of works for the completion of the structure. If this figure is used, and this is the figure upon which the unit cost should be based, the construction cost would amount to P84,000 per sqm. That is glaring evidence of overpricing.
3. In his testimony, Singson said DPWH is trying to bring down the unit cost to P55,000 per sqm. That is an admission of overpricing. If that is going to happen, DPWH will be able to slash P95.2 million from the total contract price based on 11,900 sqm as base floor area. That is equivalent to 13% of the present estimated project cost to P747 million.
4. If the unit cost goes down to P55,000 per sqm. and we use the actual floor area of 8,932 sqm., then the overprice is still a whooping P72 million.
5. Singson testified that the architectural design made provisions for an additional two floors, which is why the foundation had to be strengthened. This is a case of over design of the specifications to justify the supposed need for more pile driving. The allocation for pile driving and foundation work in the presentation of Singson is P107,000,000. But the design of the building makes additional floors impractical and unnecessary. The symmetry and balance of the “iconic architecture” would be upset, and it would lose the unique design to make it attractive.
6. By Singson’s own testimony, the overpricing of the project becomes apparent, and the Liberal Party doesn’t want to expose the Senate President to more embarrassment as what happened in last Thursday’s hearing.
On the issue of malversation and plunder:
1. Based on the above presentation, the overprice ranges from at least P74 milliion to P95 million, or even more, depending on further examination of the building plans by technical personnel of the Commission on Audit. The malversation of amounts more than P50 million is plunder. As this is a conspiracy, the act of one is the act of all.
2. No less than Senate President Drilon admitted how deep his involvement in the project is. In fact, during the hearing last Thursday, he was heard “cuing” Singson and Jimenez with their answers. He chided Senator Nancy Binay at one point, forgetting that he had inhibited himself from the hearing, and was there as a resource person. Senator Serge Osmena also took a swipe at him for trying to interject for Jimenez who found difficulty answering the questions the Cebuano senator threw at him. His own actions betrayed the truth that his involvement was more than looking for funds. It took on the nature of ownership, and he could not extricate himself from the issue that he meddled in every aspect of the implementaton.
It would be tragic if the Liberal Party bury the truth by simply shutting the door to a deeper inquiry. It will have abdicated its mandate for oversight, accountability and good governance. By itself, terminating the inquiry at a time when more questions emerged than were answered would be tantamount to betrayal of public trust.