(This is a statement from Ben Mejorada)
The agreement to build the Iloilo Convention Center (ICC) between Megaworld Corporation and the Department of Tourism had pegged its cost at only P200 million, and the best evidence of overpricing is the contract itself, former Iloilo provincial administrator Manuel “Boy” Mejorada said today.
“The deed of donation between Megaworld and DOT is a joint venture agreement which stipulates that the property developer provide the land while the government put up the amount of P200 million to build the ICC,” Mejorada said.
Mejorada made this assertion today in a 16-page Memorandum filed with the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee which is investigating alleged overpricing and other irregularities in the ICC in Mandurriao, Iloilo City.
Mejorada also told the Blue Ribbon Committee that DOT Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr. signed the deed of donation without authority as set out in Executive Order No. 423, series of 2005 covering Government Contracts.
Because of this, the contract is deemed invalid and not binding on the government, he said.
Mejorada also said the project was “fraudulently” disguised to avoid complying with stringent regulations for competitive public biddings for public-private partnership enterprises.
He said Senate President Franklin Drilon and Jimenez unilaterally decided to enter into this joint venture with Megaworld in violation of existing laws and regulations like the BOT Law and the Guidelines for Joint Ventures Between Government and Private Entities issued by the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA).
Mejorada accused Drilon, Jimenez and Singson in trying to cover-up their violations of the law and the overprice.
Mejorada had earlier filed criminal and administrative charges against Drilon, Jimenez, Singson and several other officials over the alleged rigging and overprice of the Iloilo Convention Center before the Ombudsman.
In his complaint, Mejorada said that the project cost kept rising from an original estimate of P300 million in April 2012 to its present cost of P747 million. He said the true cost of the project could not be more than P300 million.
Mejorada said he obtained a copy of the deed of donation between Megaworld Corporation and the Department of Tourism which was signed on November 13, 2012 in Pasay City only last Monday, Dec. 1.
He said he requested for an authenticated copy of the deed of donation from Jimenez. His request was turned down, he said.
“After a careful scrutiny of the contract, it became clear that it was a joint venture agreement in which the government was obligated to earmark P200 million for the construction and development of the ICC,” he said.
He said that when Drilon first announced the plan to build the ICC and pegged the cost at P300 million, “it already was overpriced by a hundred million pesos.”
With the present estimate of P747 million to finish the project, Mejorada said the overprice is now “a whooping P547 million.”
He said the refusal of Jimenez to give him a copy of the deed of donation is “a feeble attempt at a cover up.”
“This plunder is tantamount to treason against the Filipino people because taxpayers’ money is being siphoned by crooks in government as millions suffer from the devastation of Typhoon Yolanda more than a year ago,” Mejorada said.