Ex-official: Bidding for Makati projects rigged

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Thursday, September 4, 2014

MANILA. Engineer Mario Hechanova, a former employee of the Makati City Government, admitted on Thursday that he is familiar with the ongoing fixed bids in Makati, which then mayor and Vice President Jejomar Binay and his family allegedly has been doing for a long time. (Al Padilla/Sunnex)

MANILA (3rd Update) -- A former employee of the Makati City Government has revealed that the bidding for the controversial Makati City Hall Building 2 and other projects in the country's financial district have been rigged.

At the resumption of the Senate Blue Ribbon committee hearing on the alleged overpriced project on Thursday, Engr. Mario Hechanova said biddings of some projects in Makati have been rigged to favor the friends and allies of the Binays, before the actual bidding happen.

He said then mayor and now Vice President Jejomar Binay through the so-called fixed bidding was manipulating biddings in Makati City.

(Video by Al Padilla/Sunnex)

Hechanova said they were tasked to do the operations like forcing other interested bidders to withdraw, specifically rivals of the favored bidder, in order to make sure that only friends of the Vice President would bag the projects.

"Naging kalakaran na po namin ito sa Makati at marami po ang nakaaalam nito," Hechanova told the Senate committee. "Binibigay na po agad ni Mayor sa City Engineer kung sino ang gustong manalo."

Hechanova said former city engineer Nelson Morales was the one who informed him of then mayor Binay's instruction to manipulate the bidding.

"I am certain that it is the mayor (Vice President Binay) who tasked Engr. Morales," Henachova said. "If it is only Engr. Morales who did the anomaly, then sure, he would be fired by the mayor."

Hechanova who was former head of the city's General Services Office (GSO) and former vice chairperson of the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) said he received P200,000 allowance from Morales to fix the biddings for the projects.

He also said it was Morales who instructed him to make sure that the projects will be given to Hilmarc's Construction Corporation.

"We make sure the bidding of the other contractors is much bigger compared to Hilmarc's (Construction Corp.)," Hechanova said.

Hilmarc's is the contractor of the P2.2 billion Makati City Hall Building 2 and other projects of the City Government.

He said Hilmarc's would submit the bidding documents before the bidding started and "we would check the completeness of the documents."

Aside from the city hall project, Hilmarc's was also the contractor of some buildings in Makati like Makati City Hall, Ospital ng Makati (OsMak), and the Makati Science High School.

The said buildings were allegedly overpriced, as shown in the presentation of the Binay's accuser, lawyer Renato Bondal, during the first hearing of the Senate Blue Ribbon committee on the controversy.

"If there are some (bidders) who are joining, we sometimes make some technicality on their post qualification," he said.

Hechanova said Morales is being instructed by then Mayor Binay from time to time what to do, who to deal with.

"Trusted po siya ni Mayor Binay at matagal ng kasama," he said.

It was learned that Morales was gunned down on September 7, 2012 in Albay. His death, reports said, was related to the 2013 elections.

Hechanova also clarified that he is not earning a cent from the alleged "fixing" of bids. Instead, he said, they were given monthly "allowances" of up to P200,000.

When asked what the "allowance" was for, Hechanova said, "Siguro po dahil sinusunod namin ang pinag-uutos sa amin."

He also narrated that one point, he was assigned to trap inside the elevator another bidder (rival of the favored one) to make sure that he will be late in the bidding time that was declared by the bidding committee.

"Late po dumating ang kawawang bidder ngunit kahit naaawa po ako ay sundalo po akong sumusunod sa utos," Hechanova said.

Also during the hearing, Hechanova confirmed that Senator Nancy Binay herself was the one making a personal follow-up for the payment of the birthday cakes given to senior citizens.

It was also revealed that Vice President Binay would reprimand him for delayed payments over the birthday cakes.

Earlier, former Makati vice mayor Ernesto Mercado also named Senator Binay as the one who has been assigned as technical assistant of her mother, former mayor Elenita Binay, to handle controversial birthday cakes for the city's senior citizens.

Hechanova said he opted to resign after Binay did not choose former vice mayor Mercado to run for Makati mayor and instead endorsed his son, now Mayor Junjun Binay as his successor.

Senator Binay said her father is not inclined to attend the ongoing Senate hearing, saying that the inquiry is not "worthy of his office."

She said that if indeed Senate Blue Ribbon sub-committee members Senators Alan Peter Cayetano, Aquilino Pimentel III and Antonio Trillanes IV are bent on securing her father's side on the Makati carpark building issue, Vice President Binay is ready to do it if they will conduct the hearing inside the Coconut Palace.

"At least, it's a fair venue," she said.

Earlier, the camp of VP Binay said the move of the said three senators could be considered as mere bullying.

"He thinks it's a bully ring. They just ask you yes or no questions... They keep on pressing you for answers that you don't want to give. The forum, the discourse, is not worthy of his office," Cavite Governor Jonvic Remulla, who is Vice President Binay's spokesperson for political concerns, said in a statement.

He added Binay is ready to answer all questions about the Makati City Hall Building 2 if senators go to the Coconut Palace and talk.

"He's ready. Let them go to the Coconut Palace and talk on equal terms," Remulla said.

Trillanes immediately rebuffed the idea, insisting that the rules of the Senate to accommodate a public figure such as the Vice President, is nothing new insofar as their investigative proceedings are concerned.

"This has been done before with the President himself attending a Senate committee investigation, so it's not new," he said.

Both Trillanes and Cayetano have denied that the hearing is politically motivated.

On Monday, September 1, the Senate conducted an ocular of the alleged overpriced building in Makati.

Trillanes insisted on the need for the Senate Blue Ribbon subcommittee to summon the Board of Directors of Hilmarc's to the next hearing.

This after Trillanes said it is important to know the details of the project and for the company to be able to explain details of the contract for which only the top honchos can explain.

At the same time, Trillanes maintained that the ongoing investigation on the Makati City Hall Building 2 against Vice President Binay was not a demolition job.

During the hearing, lawyer Rogelio Peig, who representing Hilmarc's explained that the said corporation has suffered much as far as their reputation is concerned as he maintained that all contracts awarded to their company underwent competitive bidding.

Peig said Hilmarc is already in the business of construction for 37 years and is ISO certified.

Peig also revealed that Trillanes talked to them after the hearing telling him and his companion, "huwag niyo akong sisihin kasi sinabihan ko kayo. Bubuhusan namin ito," Trillanes allegedly said.

The lawyer was also quick to say that it was a friendly gesture of Trillanes extended to them but clarified too that they were not forced to say anything bad against anyone.

At this point, Trillanes asked the Blue Ribbon subcommittee chairman, Pimentel, to give him the floor in order to clarify what transpired during the conversation.

"I did not try to stop you (Peig and his companion). Did I tell you to concoct stories or pin down anybody? No," Trillanes said, which Peig acknowledged.

Senate Majority Floor Leader Cayetano who grilled Peig said the company must explain point by point why Hilmarc's could make a conclusion that it is not overpriced.

It was also reported that the Senate will be investigating other structures of the local government of Makati City, from public hospitals, schools to even covered courts, which will be placed under the investigation by the subcommittee of the Senate Blue Ribbon, claiming they were all overpriced based on their documents.

After the hearing, Cavite Governor Remulla, the vice presidential spokesman for political concerns, said Hechanova gave no direct evidence.

"Hechanova conveniently uses the name of a dead person - Engr. Morales-knowing fully well that the person cannot attest if his statement is true or not. Such a statement not backed by evidence will not stand in a court of law but in a kangaroo court where such a statement, no matter how ridiculous or false, is encouraged," he said in a statement.

"Any doubt that the hearing is being used as a venue for character assassination and political demolition has been erased by the appearance of Hechanova and the wild conclusions immediately made by Senator Trillanes and Senator Cayetano," Remulla added.

Remulla also said that Hechanova should be charged for also admitting to doing an illegal act.

"It is known in Makati that the ex-vice mayor, city engineer and Mario Hechanova were the ones involved in bid fixing, especially infrastructure," he said.

Remulla earlier said they expect a former purchasing officer of Makati, who is a protégé of Mercado, to appear in the Senate and show spurious and questionable documents against Binay.

The Cavite governor said Morales and Mario Hechanova were Mercado's protégés.

Meanwhile, United Makati Against Corruption (UMAC) burned an effigy of a black ribbon Thursday outside the Senate building to dramatize their resentment over the alleged Binay's involvement in corruption.

UMAC spokesperson Kim Paredes told Sun.Star in a text message that burning the black ribbon depicts Makati resident's reprisal on the irregularities done by the City Government.

Binay and his son, current mayor Junjun Binay, face plunder complaints over the alleged overpriced Makati City Hall Building 2.

"It (black ribbon) symbolizes that it is the end to remain mum (about the issue) and the beginning to fight for the rights of the Makati residents," Paredes said.

A post in the UMAC Facebook page said the excess funds from the office and parking building should be instead allocated to social services like housing, health, and education.

Paredes said the group was also urging some residents of Makati to support the black ribbon campaign to seek justice on the bad governance of the City Government. (With Camille P. Balagtas/Sunnex)

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