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No-win situation

/ 12:45 AM September 06, 2014

Slowly but surely, the issue is being resolved. Consider what we know now, with certitude, about the Makati parking building (Makati City Hall Building II), thanks to the Senate hearings plus the media and other research.

One is that it is NOT “world-class,” contrary to the assertion made in public by Mayor Junjun Binay. The young mayor has been contradicted by the legal counsel of Hilmarc, the building contractor, who stated categorically that “the contractor doesn’t make the claim that it is world-class.” Let’s face it, if the builder cannot  make the claim, how can the owner make it?

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The second thing we can now be sure of is that the parking building is NOT a “green” building. There are standards to be met if a building is to be called green, regarding compliance with environmental laws and regulations, occupancy scenarios, building performance and prerating completion, site boundaries, and area-to-site ratios. Also, the owner must share data on the building’s energy and water use for five years after occupancy or certification. Then and only then does a building get a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification, of which there are four levels: certified, if the building scores 40-49 points; silver, if 50-59 points; gold, if 60-79 points; and platinum, if 80 points and above. This rating system was developed by the US Green Building Council. The Makati parking building has no certification, not even the lowest level. Apparently, an atrium and a roof garden don’t qualify it to be green.

As an aside, I read somewhere that going green costs $2-3 per square meter, or, at most, increases building costs by 2 percent. Yet the Zuellig Building, which was featured in this newspaper yesterday, which has a platinum-level LEED certification, was built at P42,712 per sqm, compared to the Makati parking building’s P69-P84,000 per sqm.

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Therefore, if the inflated costs of the building cannot be attributed to being world-class, or being green, there is only one conclusion that can be reached: The cost must be due to corruption.

This is the conclusion by both the pro- and anti-Binay factions. What only remains to be resolved, therefore, is: Who benefited from the corruption?

The conclusion by both factions that there is corruption arises from the fact that they have made explicit statements about it. This was what the pro-Binay faction, represented by Vice President Jojo Binay’s spokesperson, Gov. Jonvic Remulla, said: “It is known in Makati that the ex-vice mayor (Ernesto Mercado), city engineer (Nelson Morales) and Mario Hechanova (former head of the Makati General Services Department) were rigging the bidding, especially infrastructure,” a conspiracy that was uncovered when Binay was about to end his term as mayor. Remulla also supplied details, such as Mercado’s gambling habit, and that he was de facto mayor in the last three years of Binay’s watch.

And, of course, we heard what Mercado testified to: As then vice mayor, he benefited (“nakinabang”) from the contract, and if he did, it must follow that the mayor also did. We also heard what Hechanova said: There was rigging in every contract in Makati, and the mayor (Jojo Binay) was responsible.

Okay. Let me repeat. Corruption was responsible for the inordinately high cost of the Makati parking building (and apparently several other buildings in Makati). That is admitted by all concerned. Was it then Mayor Jojo Binay who was responsible, or was it his underlings (i.e., the “triumvirate” of Mercado, Morales and Hechanova)?

For the sake of argument, let us assume that the underlings, not Binay, were responsible for the corruption. It still does not look good for Binay, because now we have to ask: What does this show about Binay as mayor (and more importantly, as a “presidentiable” in 2016)? Let us list down the implications:

• For three years, Mayor Jojo Binay left the running of the city to his vice mayor (this is what Remulla said), while he presumably went traipsing around the country, campaigning for 2010, even as he continued receiving his salary as mayor. Untrustworthy.

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• As a judge of character, he sucks. The three culprits had been with him since 2001 or earlier, and he trusted them enough to give them positions of utmost responsibility, while they robbed the city blind.

• There are also doubts about his credibility. His spokesperson says that the discovery of their corruption was the reason he reneged on his promise to support Mercado for mayor in 2010, and supported Junjun Binay instead.  But in 2012, or two years after the discovery, when the former city engineer Morales (a member of the triumvirate) was killed, Binay’s spokesperson Joey Salgado (see yesterday’s Inquirer, Page A16) described Morales as a “hardworking city official… one of several city officials who enjoyed the full trust of Vice President Jejomar Binay during his term as mayor, and of incumbent Mayor Junjun Binay”—a description which was repeated by Binay himself when he went to pay his respects. So what is it? Was Morales corrupt, or was he a trusted Binay underling? Is Binay speaking from both sides of his mouth?

• Aside from the issues of trustworthiness, ability to judge character, and credibility, there is also the issue of competence. Remulla makes his boss out to be a bumbling fool, who takes 10 years to realize that his shop is riddled with corruption.

That’s it, Reader. It seems to be a no-win situation for Binay. Hopefully, we reach the same conclusion. Sooner, rather than later.

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TAGS: Ernesto Mercado, Jejomar Binay, Junjun Binay, Makati City Hall parking building, Mario Hechanova
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