MANILA - Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago wants the Senate to look into the alleged anomalous involvement of Hilmarc's Construction Corp. in the construction of the Iloilo Convention Center reportedly funded through pork barrel and Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) funds.
Hilmarc's Construction Corp. is the contractor of the allegedly overpriced Makati City Hall Building 2, which is currently under investigation by the Senate blue ribbon subcommittee.
The 11-storey office and parking building is the subject of a plunder complaint against Vice President Jejomar Binay, his son Makati Mayor Junjun Binay, and several other Makati government officials.
According to Santiago, the Senate needs to know how Hilmarc's seems to "corner super-lucrative public works contracts."
"We also need to know how this evolved into a rigged-bidding procedure, institutionalizing illegal system of kickbacks tantamount to plunder," she said.
"I don't know which is worse: Hilmarc's getting the most number of lucrative government contracts, or the possibility of other construction firms getting similar and multiple preferential treatments from other local government units," she added.
In the past years, Hilmarc's have constructed several other government buildings. These include the city halls of Bacolod and Calamba, the House of Representatives Annex Building, the Sandiganbayan Centennial Building, the Quezon City Museum, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas buildings in Naga City and Negros Oriental, and the Iloilo Convention Center.
Santiago cited media reports that the Iloilo Convention Center, said to be funded partly out of Senate President Franklin Drilon's P200-million allocation from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) in 2012 and P100 million from the DAP in 2013, is overpriced by P531 million.
She said it is four times more expensive than the SMX Convention Center, which was built at a cost of P26,400 per square meter on a floor area of 46,647 square meters.
She said the Iloilo Convention Center was build at P109,375 per square meter based on a floor area of 6,400 square meters.
Meanwhile, the senator reiterated her call for Budget Secretary Butch Abad to accept her invitation to attend a "question hour" in the Senate on the DAP.
"Not only should we know whether the DAP funds were diverted to fake NGOs and bogus or grossly overpriced projects, but also whether these projects were rigged to favor certain contractors."
"The DAP itself is illegal, as decided by the Supreme Court. Fake NGOs and the contractors are involved in illegal activities using DAP funds. Sec. Abad should clear up this mess in the Senate 'question hour,'" Santiago said.