Friday, November 21, 2014

Assessing the Cases Against Binay and Drilon

VP Binay and Senate President Drilon

Today, the online and offline world are witnessing via TV/Video, Radio/Audio, Newspaper/Text, Mobile and Social Media, allegations of Overpricing and Plunder.

The accusations are lodged against the second highest official of the Philippines, Vice President Jojo Binay as well as against the third highest, Senate President Frank Drilon. Binay is alleged to be involved in overpricing the construction of several buildings in Makati during his tenure as Mayor while Drilon is alleged to have conspired with DPWH Secretary Babes Singson and DOT Secretary Ramon Jimenez in overpricing the construction of the Iloilo Convention Center.

Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearings are now going on to investigate any wrongdoing and find ways to aid legislation.

Watching the hearings, I find some glaring differences so far.

First. Vice President Binay refused to face his accusers, the Senate investigators, and other witnesses despite receiving an invitation to do so. On the other hand, Senate President Frank Drilon was willing to face them and, in fact, did.

Second. Oral testimonial evidence by former allies of Binay led by former Makati Vice Mayor Ernesto Mercado with personal knowledge and direct participation were offered against Binay. Accuser Manuel Mejorada in his oral testimony against Drilon admits to having no evidence to offer.

Third. Expert witnesses led by noted architects, engineers, real estate appraisers and the like were offered against Binay. Only “whispers” by supposed architects were offered against Drilon. These are not just inadmissible “hearsay” evidence, they are worse because one cannot even “hear the say”.

Fourth. Documentary evidence was offered to support accusations against Binay. So far, no valid documentary evidence has been offered to support the allegations against Drilon. Accuser Mejorada admits having sourced his supporting documents online such as Wikipedia. In fact, the available documentary evidence supports the defense for Drilon and co-accused instead.

Fifth. Arithmetic! The numbers tell the story. Computations of the figures tend to support the alleged accusations against Binay at the hearing. The numbers shown or mentioned in the Drilon hearing so far support the defense of Drilon, and of course, the two Cabinet Secretaries.

Sixth. Binay’s response so far has been a series of press releases and press statements, which are not under oath. His Affidavit, which is notarized, consists mostly of general denials, and general accusations against the Senate investigators as “judges, prosecutors, and witnesses” rolled into one. The said responses are not subjected to cross-examination and therefore to date, have no evidentiary weight. Drilon’s response and those of Secretaries Singson and Jimenez were quick, direct, and specific supported by facts, figures and expert witnesses. They were at the hearing available for cross-examination and in fact, did answer all the questions hurled.

Seventh. At the Binay hearing, Engineer Mario Hechanova, former head of General Services Department and vice chairman of Bids and Awards Committee admits to Bid-Rigging of the Makati contracts. At the Drilon hearing, accuser Mejorada ended up falsely alleging that the bid announcement of the project did not include scope of work – thus bids were mostly high. It turned out that scope of work were detailed at the Pre-bid conference and that interested bidders could request or buy copies of bid proposal forms. Any implication of bid-rigging re the ICC contract proved to be unfounded.

Eighth. Raissa Robles, a genuine, reputable, and very respected investigative journalist was presented as a witness and resource person at the Binay hearing. On the other hand, Mejorada presented himself also as an investigative journalist at the Drilon hearing. But, I must say, of the worst kind. According to DPWH Secretary Singson, Mejorada could have easily known the scope of work if he just asked Singson or his office copies of the documents containing the scope of work.

Furthermore, instead of investigating and going out there searching for the truth as journalists like Raissa Robles did, Mejorada accuses people before the Ombudsman and the Senate and expects them to use their subpoena powers to “fish” for evidence and support his accusations.

The most serious and in fact, the worst mistake that Mejorada committed in all these was to even falsely and wrongly include two of the most incorruptible Secretaries in PNoy’s Cabinet in his accusation of Overpricing and Plunder. Coming from and earning several times more from the private sector, they joined the government answering the call from President Aquino for good and honest public service.

In an interview, Senator Koko Pimentel who efficiently and effectively chairs the Senate Blue Ribbon Sub-Committee Binay hearing and who also attends the Drilon hearing, says, “No need to hold another hearing”, referring to the one of Drilon and ICC.

My immediate response on Facebook was, “Words of Senatorial Wisdom”.

But I think that the Blue Ribbon Senate committee will hold another one if only to hear another accuser, former Iloilo legislator Augusto Syjuco, Jr., as a matter of courtesy.

My barber says, “It would also give Senator Nancy Binay another opportunity to improve on and show better performance as a Senator in committee hearings.”

The Binays are hoping that in these Drilon/ICC hearings, public and media attention would be diverted from the Binay/Makati hearings. The effect is the opposite and their hopes dashed!

Senators Koko Pimentel and Sonny Trillanes are in both the Binay and Drilon investigations. Senator Alan Cayetano would most likely join them in subsequent hearings. Through them, Attention to the Binay investigation would be made; Differences would be spelled out; and Difficulties for the Binays (Senator Nancy on the inside and the Vice President as well as the other kids on the outside) in responding to the accusations would be felt more distinctively.

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