Raps filed vs Drilon, 2 Cabinet men over ‘overpriced’ convention center

Artist’s rendering of the Iloilo Convention Center. Inset Senate President Franklin Drilon.

MANILA —Graft and plunder charges were filed against Senate President Franklin Drilon, Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez, Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson and other Department of Public Works and Highways officials before the Ombudsman Wednesday in connection with the allegedly overpriced construction of the Iloilo Convention Center.

Manuel Mejorada, a former provincial administrator of Iloilo, filed the charges including malversation of public funds, violation of procurement law, anti-graft and corrupt practices act and dishonesty and grave misconduct against Drilon and other officials.

The charges stemmed from the allegedly overpriced Iloilo Convention Center, a purported P700-million pet project of Drilon being carried out by Hilmarc’s Construction Corp., the contractor of the allegedly overpriced Makati parking building.

Mejorada said Drilon was behind the allegedly overpriced convention center.

“Siya po ang namuno nito. Siya ang nag conceive nito at siya po ang lumakad para sa project,” he said in an interview over Radyo Inquirer 990AM.

(He led this project. He conceived this, and he arranged this project.)

He said he has documents to prove that the supposed public bidding was rigged.

“Mayroon akong matibay na dokumento kung paano nilitson o nilutong Macau ang bidding ng Iloilo Convention ni Drilon,” he said.

(I have strong evidence as to how Drilon rigged the bidding for the Iloilo Convention Center.)

He claimed that Drilon set aside P200 million from his Priority Development Assistance Fund (Pdaf), P200 million from the Department of Tourism and P100 million from Malacañang’s Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), parts of which were declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

An additional of P200 million, he said, was also funded by DAP.

Mejorada said the cost of the construction ballooned from P192 million to P488 million.

The project was supposed to be concluded by March 2015.

Aside from Drilon, Jimenez and Singson, Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority board director Mark Lapid, Public Work Undersecretaries Jaime Pacanan and Romeo Momo, DPWH Regional Director Edilberto Tayao, DPWH Iloilo Engr. Marilyn Celiz, W.V Coscolluela and Associates and Hillmarcs Construction Corp. also face charges.

Mejorada said his move to file charges against Drilon was not politically motivated.