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MANILA (2nd UPDATE) - A former ranking official of Makati told a Senate inquiry that Vice President Jejomar Binay received millions of pesos in kickbacks from infrastructure projects when he was the city’s mayor, an allegation that prompted the Blue Ribbon Committee to decide to invite Binay to the investigation.
Ernesto Mercado, former vice mayor of Makati, said Binay would get kickbacks worth 13 percent of the cost of every project, including the allegedly overpriced Makati City Hall Building 2.
He said he would personally deliver bags containing millions in cash to Binay’s personal assistant, a certain “Ebeng,” for Binay’s personal funds; his finance officer Gerry Limlingan for his campaign kitty; and to the family of then Councilor Junjun Binay.
Mercado said Binay’s wife, Elenita, also got P2.4 million every month from the city’s garbage collection contracts when she was mayor. He added there were times her daughter, Nancy, who’s now a senator, would receive the money for her.
To illustrate his point, Mercado showed a chart showing the distribution of money and presented bags similar to the ones he used to deliver to the Binays.
He said the bags usually contained P1.5 million to P2 million; the highest he delivered was P10 million.
“Halos linggu-linggo mayro’ng gano’n (There are deliveries almost every week),” Mercado said during Thursday’s hearing, the fifth on the overpricing issue. “Depende sa dami ng project. May panahon naman na madalang, walang wala. May panahon naman na sunud-sunod (It depends on the number of projects. There are times we would get nothing. Sometimes it’s consecutive).”
Mercado had testified in a previous hearing that he also benefited from the construction of the controversial parking building, which critics say was overpriced by P2 billion. He estimates that Binay may have earned P52 million from the project.
Although Mercado did not present evidence to support his testimony, senators conducting the investigation believe his statements carried enough weight to support the overpricing claim.
“Ang kanyang testimony, may kaakibat na overprice sa isang building. So nakikita kung saan ang pagkukunan (His testimony is connected to a building’s overprice. So it shows what the source of the kickbacks is),” Senator Alan Peter Cayetano told reporters after the hearing.
Mercado, who used to be Binay’s ally, earlier said he had a falling out with the Vice President after the latter did not field him as candidate for the 2010 mayoral race in Makati.
Senator Antonio Trillanes IV moved to invite Vice President Binay to the next hearing on September 25. Senators Cayetano and Aquilino Pimentel III agreed.
Pimentel said the Vice President will be sent a letter inviting him to the hearing. But the committee will subpoena his son, incumbent Mayor Junjun, and his aides who allegedly received money on his behalf.
“It’s about time. Even though he intended to answer this directly to the people, it’s about time that the sub-committee will formally invite him to give him a chance. Ang pagtanggap ng imbitasyon ay nasa sa kanya na (It’s up to him whether to accept the invitation),” Pimentel told reporters.