Wednesday, November 12, 2014
MANILA-Rejecting allegations of corruption regarding the construction of the Iloilo Convention Center, Senate President Franklin M. Drilon emphasized that throughout his career as a public servant, he was never charged in any court for graft and corruption practices.
Drilon told the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee that is looking into the implementation of the yet to be completed Iloilo Convention Center (ICC) that in his 27 years in public service, he has spearheaded numerous big-ticket infrastructure projects that benefited the country.
“Despite the amounts involved in the construction of these projects, I have never been called by the Ombudsman to respond to any allegation of corruption. Moreover, I have never been charged in any court with the commission of malversation of public funds or any act amounting to graft and corruption,” Drilon stressed.
Among the projects Drilon spearheaded are the hundreds of courtrooms in the Halls of Justice across the country, which were built when he was Justice Secretary; the 1,600 classrooms which were built at half the cost of similar structures in partnership with the Federation of Filipino Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc.; and the P6.5-billion Iloilo International Airport.
“In defense of my name, my honor and my family, I specifically and categorically deny the baseless, speculative, and wild allegations of Mr. Mejorada. I did not commit any wrongdoing in the construction of the Iloilo Convention Center,” Drilon underscored.
“I vehemently deny the accusation that I caused the ICC Project to be overpriced. The ICC Project is not overpriced. On the contrary, because of my initiative, the government, through the DOT acquired for free thru a donation, a 17,371 square-meter prime property, worth at least 521 million pesos, for the ICC site,” Drilon said.
The Senate chief said the accusations are extremely unfair to Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson, Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez, their staff, and the people of Iloilo.
“It is disheartening to witness relentless smear campaigns against a forthright project which aims to spur economic activities and generate jobs,” said Drilon.
“It is lamentable to see vile attempts to discredit the good names of Secretaries Singson and Jimenez, who like myself, have nothing else to leave behind as legacy except our reputation,” he added.
Drilon, however, said he welcomes the investigation in order for the public to know more about the ICC and scrutinize every aspect of the project.
The Senate chief submitted a 4-page sworn affidavit before the committee detailing his knowledge of the project, which he requested to be considered and made part of the record of the hearings to aid in the Committee’s final action.
In his affidavit, Drilon reiterated that he had nothing to do with the bidding for the project, because it was the Department of Public Works and Highway (DPWH) and Department of Tourism (DOT) that implemented the project.
“To set the record straight, I had nothing to do with the bidding for the Project. I did not participate in the constitution of the Bids and Awards Committee. I did not interfere with any part of the bidding process, nor did I nominate or appoint the winning bidder,” Drilon pointed out.
He added that he did not recommend any supplier or laborer in the construction of the Project.
“The preparation or conduct of the bidding, its award, or its implementation was wholly undertaken by DPWH and DOT,” Drilon said.