PHNO HEADLINE NEWS EARLY THIS PAST WEEK

5 BIG DEVELOPERS DENY GIVING CONDO UNITS TO BINAY 

NOV 21 ---Five of the country’s largest property developers on Wednesday dismissed allegations that giving condominium units to Vice President Jejomar Binay in exchange for tax and building permit concessions when he was mayor of the country’s financial hub was an “open secret.” SM Development Corp. (SMDC), Megaworld Corp., Robinsons Land Corp. (RLC), Rockwell Land Corp. and Eton Properties dismissed claims by the Vice President’s former vice mayor, Ernesto Mercado, during Tuesday’s hearing of the Senate blue ribbon subcommittee that condominium units were given away under Binay’s watch as a matter of course in exchange for favors. READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO Early campaigning?: Even Binay not too sure if he’s working or campaigning 

NOV 21 --For Vice President Jejomar Binay, only a thin line separates his official work and stumping for Malacañang. “Let’s not be hypocrites,” Binay said on Thursday when asked by reporters in Tabuelan town, Cebu province, to comment on the statement of Cebu Vice Gov. Agnes Magpale, a member of the ruling Liberal Party, that the Vice President, a long-declared candidate for President in the 2016 elections, is campaigning too early by province-hopping. “Let’s just be honest with each other. We will not be able to distinguish whether I am working or campaigning,” Binay said. Whistlestop-style ---As head of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council and President Benigno Aquino III’s adviser on migrant workers’ affairs, Binay is going around the country attending to business. READ FULL REPORT...

SENATE CAN PROBE VP'S ACCUSERS FOR ILL-WEALTH --DRILON 

NOV 21 --FORMER Makati vice mayor Ernesto Mercado, who blew the whistle on Vice President Jejomar Binay, can also be investigated by the Senate over the huge kickbacks he is alleged to have received and his use of dummies to conceal his ill-gotten wealth, Senate President Franklin Drilon said Thursday. In an interview on Bombo Radyo, Drilon said if a resolution is filed calling for such an investigation, it will be referred to the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, which is mandated to investigate anomalies. The committee would then act “if there’s enough evidence, and if there’s an anomaly, and if there’s a need for a law to prevent it from happening again,” Drilon said, saying such probes must be in aid of legislation and not to find criminal liability. READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO: Mercado flies to the US — source  

NOV 21 ---Senate blue ribbon subcommittee’s star witness, former Makati Vice Mayor Ernesto Mercado, reportedly left hurriedly for the United States shortly after his testimony in the Senate Tuesday, where he claimed that Vice President Jejomar “Jojo” Binay had various condominium units which he said were all in the names of the dummies of Binay. He also testified that Binay owns some 60 to 70 condominiums as the VP, in allegedly getting a deal for some considerations for the property developers, gets a condominium for free. This claim of Mercado was denied yesterday by five big developers in Makati, who all said that, apart from not engaging in such sleazy practice in dealing with government officials, they also denied that there was no condominum unit from them owned by Binay in their condo projects. Mercado has also been unavailable for comment for at least two days now. Mercado’s reported flight could not be verified immediately although an airline manifest had a passenger with a highly similar name. READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO: Mercado in US with Senate, DOJ knowledge for ‘family matters’

NOV 22 --Former Makati vice mayor Ernesto Mercado is in the United States with the knowledge of the Senate and the Department of Justice (DOJ), ostensibly to settle family matters. In a radio interview from the US yesterday, Mercado admitted that his family owns the Coron Underwater Garden Resort in Palawan. But Vice President Jejomar Binay’s nemesis said the property is only a 1.2-hectare “islet,” not an island of several hundred hectares as Binay’s camp claims. In the same interview with dzBB, Mercado admitted that Ariel Olivar, whom he exposed as the alleged dummy of Binay, is his first cousin. Mercado denied owning any property or bank account in the US, or any knowledge of bank accounts or property registered in the name of his ailing wife, who has been staying in the US for years. READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO: COA raised red flags anew on Taguig projects allegedly spent for LANI scholarship funds 

NOV 24 --The Commission on Audit (CoA) had raised the red flag anew on the city government of Taguig whose officials in the bailiwick of Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano were ordered to properly account for the release of more than P178.4 million in public funds which was allegedly spent for the LANI scholarship program and the birthday cash gifts given to senior citizens last year to avoid the possible issuance of a notice of suspension. PHOTO: Taguig City has for its mayor Ma. Laarni “Lani” Cayetano, the wife of the senator. CoA auditors issued the warning in the 2013 audit report on the city released over the weekend. State auditors said cash advances for the scholarship grants as well as birthday and cash gifts for senior citizens in the amounts of P156.105 million and P22.321 million, respectively, were not supported with approved or valid list of payees. The report showed claims against government funds have to be supported with complete documentation adding that as per auditing rules, cash advances shall be equal to the amount of the payroll for a pay period. “Audit of the cash advance disbursement vouchers for scholarship programs amounting to P156,105,000 and senior citizens’ birthday and cash gifts in the amount of P22,321,500 disclosed that these were not supported with the list of payees or payroll,” the report of the COA auditors said. READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO EARLIER REPORT: CoA flags Cayetanos’ funds use in bailiwick 

Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano and his wife, Taguig City Mayor Lani Cayetano, who dominate politics in Taguig City have earned red flags from the Commission on Audit (CoA) for projects and use of funds in their bailiwick based on the reports of state auditors for 2012.
Several projects in Taguig funded by the P165-million pork barrel of the senator, who has been styling himself lately as a graft-buster, got a red flag from CoA for being riddled with irregularities, among them the “ghost” purchase of so-called “firebusters” for a barangay.
The findings of irregularities in the pork barrel projects of Cayetano were mentioned on pages 396 and 397 of the CoA report on the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of members of Congress from 2009 to 2010. The report gained infamy when CoA chairman Grace Pulido-Tan at a press conference in 2013 used the word “kahindik-hindik” (atrocious) to describe how the legislators misused their pork barrel funds. According to CoA, P400,000 worth of “firebusters” were purchased with Cayetano’s PDAF for the use of Barangay Calzada but far from being fire extinguishers, the firebusters were actually mere container drums with pails. READ FULL REPROT..


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

5 big developers deny giving condo units to Binay

MANILA, NOVEMBER 24, 2014 (INQUIRER) Doris C. Dumlao @inquirerdotnet  - Five of the country’s largest property developers on Wednesday dismissed allegations that giving condominium units to Vice President Jejomar Binay in exchange for tax and building permit concessions when he was mayor of the country’s financial hub was an “open secret.”

SM Development Corp. (SMDC), Megaworld Corp., Robinsons Land Corp. (RLC), Rockwell Land Corp. and Eton Properties dismissed claims by the Vice President’s former vice mayor, Ernesto Mercado, during Tuesday’s hearing of the Senate blue ribbon subcommittee that condominium units were given away under Binay’s watch as a matter of course in exchange for favors.

Mercado, star witness in the panel’s inquiry on corruption allegations against Binay, earlier claimed that only Ayala Land Inc., Makati’s biggest landlord, did not give condominium units to Binay in exchange for concessions.

That Binay is allegedly getting a unit for every condominium built in the nation’s financial center is a long-running rumor within the business community. Prior to Mercado’s testimony, no one had publicly accused the longtime Makati mayor of the alleged shenanigan.

Even now that the lid was blown off the supposed open secret, no property developer would back up such allegations.

“This is not our business practice nor have we encountered a request of this nature,” said Bernard Vincent Dy, president of Ayala Land, whose crown jewel is the Makati central business district.

“No, we don’t do that,” said Harold Geronimo, Megaworld’s head of public relations and communications.

SMDC, a newer player in residential development, said in a statement: “We started our Makati condo project late 2010 and Vice President Binay or any member of his family has no unit or units in our project.”

SMDC is referring to the four-tower Jazz Residences in Bel-Air Makati, a residential complex which has its own mall—Jazz Mall.

A spokesperson from Gokongwei-led RLC issued the same denial. RLC, which had been less aggressive in residential development compared to its peers in the last few years, has only one residential project in Makati—the upscale Signa Designer Residences, a joint venture with Security Bank Corp.

The Lopez-led Rockwell Land, in a statement, said: “Our records bare no history of any transaction with Vice President Binay nor his family members. And neither is there any unit currently registered under the ownership of the Vice President nor his family members.”

Eton Properties of the Lucio Tan group said: “Eton did not and will not give any condominium unit to any politician or government official in exchange for preferential treatment as Eton maintains a policy of complying with all LGU (local government unit) regulations for all its developments.”


FROM THE INQUIRER

Even Binay not too sure if he’s working or campaigning Christine O. Avendaño @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer 2:58 AM | Friday, November 21st, 2014


Vice President Jejomar Binay. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO / NINO JESUS ORBETA

For Vice President Jejomar Binay, only a thin line separates his official work and stumping for Malacañang.

“Let’s not be hypocrites,” Binay said on Thursday when asked by reporters in Tabuelan town, Cebu province, to comment on the statement of Cebu Vice Gov. Agnes Magpale, a member of the ruling Liberal Party, that the Vice President, a long-declared candidate for President in the 2016 elections, is campaigning too early by province-hopping.

“Let’s just be honest with each other. We will not be able to distinguish whether I am working or campaigning,” Binay said.

Whistlestop-style

As head of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council and President Benigno Aquino III’s adviser on migrant workers’ affairs, Binay is going around the country attending to business.

But he conducts business whistlestop-style—speaking at meetings, pumping the flesh, giving away T-shirts and eating with the locals—arousing suspicion that he is campaigning on government time and expense.

Cebu was his latest stop. He stayed three days and departed on Thursday.

His schedule, as released by the Office of the Vice President, saw him meeting with barangay residents and officials and joining them in a “boodle fight”—a military-style lunch where people share a big meal laid out on a long table, eating with their bare hands.

Binay toured the province, visiting marketplaces at every stop. At one stop, he turned over wheelchairs and medical equipment to local health authorities.

Not shy

But he was not rabbity about the political significance of his activities.

“For incumbents, it will be hard for you to distinguish if we are campaigning or we are working,” he said.

In Cebu, for instance, the Vice President said he went to see an overseas Filipino worker who needed help and then he had to go to another event that involved following up a housing project of Pag-Ibig Fund.

And “along the way,” he said, he would go to places like Tabuelan, where there were journalists waiting to interview him.

In Tabuelan, Binay met with local officials and later joined them in a boodle fight at the public market.

Taking public’s pulse

When asked what he was doing in Tabuelan, Binay said he made a report on the progress of the government’s rehabilitation efforts in communities ravaged by Supertyphoon “Yolanda” guyito(international name: Haiyan) on Nov. 8 last year.

The Vice President was expected to return to Manila Thursday night.

Last week, he traveled to Cavite province to feel the public pulse on the charges of corruption and ill-gotten wealth hurled at him in a Senate investigation.

Binay has denied he pocketed kickbacks from municipal infrastructure projects when he was mayor of Makati City.

He has also denied using dummies to conceal his ownership of real-estate property, including an 8,877-square-meter lot in Comembo village in Makati and a 350-hectare agricultural farm in Rosario town, Batangas province.


FROM THE MANILA STANDARD

‘Senate can probe VP’s accuser for ill-wealth’


DRILON

MANILA, NOVEMBER 24, 2014 (MANILA STANDARD) By Macon Ramos-Araneta- FORMER Makati vice mayor Ernesto Mercado, who blew the whistle on Vice President Jejomar Binay, can also be investigated by the Senate over the huge kickbacks he is alleged to have received and his use of dummies to conceal his ill-gotten wealth, Senate President Franklin Drilon said Thursday.

In an interview on Bombo Radyo, Drilon said if a resolution is filed calling for such an investigation, it will be referred to the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, which is mandated to investigate anomalies.

The committee would then act “if there’s enough evidence, and if there’s an anomaly, and if there’s a need for a law to prevent it from happening again,” Drilon said, saying such probes must be in aid of legislation and not to find criminal liability.

During Tuesday’s hearing, Mercado testified that Binay, when he was mayor of Makati, received condominium units from developers in exchange for concessions on tax and building permits. He said only Ayala Land did not give condominium units to Binay.

Mercado also testified that Binay used dummies in leased condominium units. He said Unit 2801 of the Peak Tower Condominium was under the name of Ariel Olivar, the surveyor at the so-called “Hacienda Binay” in Rosario town in Batangas.

But Binay’s spokesman for political affairs, Cavite Gov. Jonvic Remulla, said Mercado is the real owner of Peak Tower condominium unit. In fact, he said, this is the same unit where Raquel Ambrosio, his former live-in partner used to reside.

United Nationalist Alliance interim president Navotas Rep. Toby Tiangco said Mercado’s assets included the 100-hectare villa resort in Palawan that he said were the proceeds of the former vice mayor’s corruption.

He also dared the Senate to investigate the connection between Mercado and Olivar, who he said was fronting for the defeated Makati mayoral candidate.

If Mercado claims that Olivar was a dummy for Binay, he should be asked to surrender all properties under his name to the government, Tiangco said. He said it was Mercado who was using Olivar as his dummy.

Tiangco noted that Olivar is a surveyor of Freeway Surveying, which holds office at the Kristine Building in Makati. The company is owned by Mercado.

During his testimony, Mercado described Olivar as the surveyor of “Hacienda Binay” and submitted a copy of Olivar’s sworn statement that he is not the true and beneficial owner of the Peak condominium unit. In the same document, Olivar said he knows Binay as the true owner of the unit.

The other condominium units Mercado linked to Binay were Unit 2801 of the Le Triomphe Condo; Unit 906, Makati Sunrise Hotel (now Berjaya Hotel); Unit 7907, The Perla Compania de Seguros Mansion Condotel; Unit 2316, The Prince Plaza Condotel and Unit 5B., The Avignon Tower.

The Binay camp said Mercado’s slide presentation was not enough evidence to pin down the vice president.

The UNA on Thursday asked the organizers of the Miss Earth international pageant to cancel the holding of its events in the Coron Underwater Garden Resort, which is allegedly owned by Mercado.

“It may be wise for Carousel Productions to think over the holding of the Miss Earth 2014 event in the said resort in order to protect the reputation of the pageant and the Miss Earth franchise,” Tiangco said.

“Mr. Mercado has admitted that he got kickbacks during his term as vice mayor and the money he used to acquire the island and build the resort came from illegal sources,” Tiangco said.

Tiangco also urged the government to look into the companies and business of Mercado, including:

Villa Juanita in Coron, Palawan.

The 1-hectare Grand Villa Pateros in Bgy. Aguho, Pateros.

MK Professional Manpower Solution Inc. under the name of Juanita Mercado and Karla Pascual Mercado

The 200-hectare Grand Villa and Butterfly Center in Bae, Laguna; and

The 500-hectare Hunter Valley Plantation and Resort in Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija. With Christine F. Herrera


FROM THE TRIBUNE

Mercado flies to the US — source - Written by Angie M. Rosales and Charlie V. Manalo Friday, 21 November 2014 00:00

Senate chief says ex-vice mayor can be investigated


DRILON, MERCADO

Senate blue ribbon subcommittee’s star witness, former Makati Vice Mayor Ernesto Mercado, reportedly left hurriedly for the United States shortly after his testimony in the Senate Tuesday, where he claimed that Vice President Jejomar “Jojo” Binay had various condominium units which he said were all in the names of the dummies of Binay.

He also testified that Binay owns some 60 to 70 condominiums as the VP, in allegedly getting a deal for some considerations for the property developers, gets a condominium for free.

This claim of Mercado was denied yesterday by five big developers in Makati, who all said that, apart from not engaging in such sleazy practice in dealing with government officials, they also denied that there was no condominum unit from them owned by Binay in their condo projects.

Mercado has also been unavailable for comment for at least two days now. Mercado’s reported flight could not be verified immediately although an airline manifest had a passenger with a highly similar name.

Mercado was supposd to have left Manila for Los Angeles, California.

It was said that Mercado left with his daughter, Karla Mary Jane P. Mercado-Cirurella.

A Senate investigation on Mercado and his alleged hidden wealth may have also been the reason for his reported flight to the US.

But the Bureau of Immigration (BI) officials yesterday said they have no record of Mercado having left the country.

However the BI is an agency under the Department of Justice (DoJ) which keeps Mercado under the Witness Protection Program (WPP).

The DoJ has also remained silent on the reported flight of Mercado.

But a Philippine Airline source told the Tribune, that its manifest shows that one Baby Ernesto Mercado left the country last Nov. 18 on board PAL Flight PR102 for Los Angeles, California.

A check with PAL showed that PR102 left 9:02 pm last Wednesday Nov. 18 bound for the Tom Bradley International Terminal of the Los Angeles International Airport.

DoJ chief Leila de Lima quickly defended Mercado saying that it is normal for Mercado, who has been recommended for immunity from suit and is under the Witness Protection Program, to have committed irregularities and anomalies as he had admitted already to having been part of the illegal activities.

She said the National Bureau of Investigaton will look into these allegations raised by the political opposition but said there has to be evidence presented against her witness first.

However, she apparenly already prejudged the probe on Mercado as De Lima said Mercado is a whistleblower in anomalies allegedly involving Binay and his testimonies are admissions against his interest, which she said makes him more credible.

Senate President Franklin Drilon yesterday said that the Senate may conduct a probe on Mercado if a resolution would be filed calling for a probe.

There are four opposition senators today who can file such a resolution: Minority Floor Leader Tito Sotto, Senators Nancy Binay, Gregorio Honasan and JV Ejercito.

It will be recalled that the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) Interim president, Navotas Rep. Tobias “Toby” Tiangco dared the three-man Senate blue ribbon subcommittee to investigate the unexplained wealth of its star witness Mercado and for the Senate panel to recommend the seizure of the assets of the former vice mayor’s alleged dummy, Ariel Olivar, whom UNA charged as having lied under oath during a hearing, and who tried to mislead the Senate panel and the public that he (Olivar) is a dummy of Vice President Binay.

Tiangco dared the Senate subcommitte’s troika, composed of Senators Koko Pimentel, Alan Cayetano and Antonio Trillanes, along with the concerned government agencies to seize all assets in the name of Olivar, as proof that these assets are not the Vice President’s.

It appears that Olivar is related to Mercado and that it is the same Olivar who was a passenger in the chartered helicopter that surveyed Antonio Tiu’s Sunchamp farm.

Mercado, in Tuesday’s subcommittee hearing, read a notarized document from Olivar claiming to be the dummy of Binay’s Peak Tower condominium unit.

Mercado also charged that the Vice President was given units of 60 to 70 percent of condominium buildings in the city in exchange for faster processing of permits, tax relief and other privileges for the developers.

He named only some six condomium units he claimed are under the names of the dummies of the Vice President.

Tiangco, returning fire with fire, bared the many properties and other assets of Mercado, with Tiangco challenging the Senate to ask the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) to conduct a lifestyle check on Mercado who apparently owns an entire island.

Tiangco expressed his surprise how Mercado could have bought an island in Palawan.

“Just from where did this wealth of Mercado come? The property is listed in the name of his children, his wife, his second wife, with even in-laws and brothers and sisters. This is the evidence on how he made lots of money and acquired illegal wealth from his position as Makati vice mayor.

The UNA president pointed out that the Senate and the BIR should investigate further into the companies and businesses of Mercado and his family who own prime properties here and abroad.

Among the properties reportedly owned by Mercado and his family are: (a) The 100-hectare island property Underwater Garden Hotel and Resort in La Jala, Coron, Palawan; (b) The multi-million villa-resort Villa Juanita in Coron, Palawan; (c) The 1-hectare Grand Villa Pateros in Bgy. Aguho, Pateros; (d) JMK Professional Manpower Solution Inc. under the name of Juanita Mercado and Karla Pascual Mercado; (e) The 200-hectare Grand Villa and Butterfly Center in Los Banos, Laguna; (f) The 500-hectare Hunter Valley Plantation and Resort in Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija; (g) Nitz Face & Body Care Center in Bgy. Aguho, Pateros; (h) Lawndale Finance Company (LFCI) in Cabanatuan City; (i) St. Therese Multi-Specialty Services Inc. in Makati City; (j) Properties in West Rembo, Makati City and in Laur, Nueva Ecija; and, (k) Poultry farm in Palayan, Nueva Ecija and many more.

Tiangco said this year’s Miss Earth International Pageant will be held on November 23-25 in the 100-hectare island property Underwater Garden Hotel and Resort in La Jala, Coron, Palawan which is one of Mercado’s high-end resorts.

Tiangco also yesterday asked the organizers of the Ms. Earth international pageant to nix the holding of one of its events in an island-resort allegedly owned by Mercado.

In a letter to Carousel Productions’ Ramon Monzon and Lorraine Schuck, Tiangco said he has reservations in the holding of the event scheduled on Nov. 23 to 25 in in the 100-hectare Coron Underwater Garden Resort.

“I have serious misgivings about the holding an international event in the controversial 100-hectare Coron Underwater Garden Resort in Palawan,” said Tiangco.

The Navotas solon also cautioned the organizers for the possible repercussions of holding the event in the high-end Coron resort.

“It may be wise for Carousel Productions to think over the holding of the Miss Earth 2014 event in the said resort in order to protect the reputation of the pageant and the Miss Earth franchise.” he added.

Tiangco said that the resort was allegedly acquired by Mercado through illegal means and forms part of the vice mayor’s ill-gotten wealth.

“Mr. Mercado has admitted that he got kickbacks during his term as vice mayor and the money he used to acquire the island and build the resort came from illegal sources.” he added.

Tiangco had previously asked the Senate and the Bureau of Internal Revenue to conduct a lifestyle check on Mercado and his family over their alleged owning of prime properties in the country and abroad.

The latest word from the upper chaber is that there is no barring the Senate from subjecting to an investigation on the former Makati Vice Mayor who was said to have lied under oath before yhe Senate investigating subcommitee on the alleged dummies of the Vice President.

“If a senator files a resolution on this, that will be referred to the blue ribbon committee or another committee,” Senate President Franklin Drilon said yesterday.

“If there is enough evidence and a violation of the law then that has to be investigated so that this does not happen again and this is what the Senate investigations are all about, not to find criminal offense but to aid legislation, how to come up with laws. This is the purpose of these legislative inquiries,” the Senate leader said.

Drilon’s statements were in response to the call made by Tiangco, for the blue ribbon sub-committee to investigate Mercado as well as he made false testimonies under oath.

Olivar, said Tiangco, is actually an employee of Mercado, a board member of Twinleaf Group Inc. which is allegedly owned by the former vice mayor and was purportedly among those in the chartered chopper ride along with the staff of Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano that made an aerial survey of the supposed Binay property in Rosario, Batangas.

There is an Ariel Mercado Olivar listed as a Board Member of Twinleaf Group, Inc.

Twinleaf group is owned by Mercado and through this company, he cornered more than P1 billion in infrastructure and other projects in Makati when he was vice mayor.

“Mercado used a dummy at that time so his ownership was kept hidden until after he lost to Junjun Binay in the 2010 elections. Now, it’s open that Mercado and his children are in that company of the former Makati vice mayor.

“In fact, he was even able to corner projects from the Department of Agriculture,” Tiangco revealed.


FROM PHILSTAR

Mercado in US with Senate, DOJ knowledge for ‘family matters’ By Perseus Echeminada (The Philippine Star) | Updated November 22, 2014 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus0 0


MERCADO

MANILA, Philippines - Former Makati vice mayor Ernesto Mercado is in the United States with the knowledge of the Senate and the Department of Justice (DOJ), ostensibly to settle family matters.

In a radio interview from the US yesterday, Mercado admitted that his family owns the Coron Underwater Garden Resort in Palawan.

But Vice President Jejomar Binay’s nemesis said the property is only a 1.2-hectare “islet,” not an island of several hundred hectares as Binay’s camp claims.

In the same interview with dzBB, Mercado admitted that Ariel Olivar, whom he exposed as the alleged dummy of Binay, is his first cousin.

Mercado denied owning any property or bank account in the US, or any knowledge of bank accounts or property registered in the name of his ailing wife, who has been staying in the US for years.

He said he is in the US to settle some family matters, and that it had prior approval from the DOJ, the Office of the Ombudsman and the Senate Blue Ribbon committee.

The resort, among the top tourist destinations in Palawan, is described in www.asiatravel.com as: “A vast water park giving a pleasurable encounter with water in all its richness, enjoy several activities together with your family and friends. Take a peek at the beautiful marine life with our top of the line snorkeling gadget, enjoy the ride and try our jet ski, speed boat, family motor boat, kayak and our 2-seater boat.”

Mercado said he allowed the organizers of Miss Earth International to use the resort for free as sleeping quarters for candidates starting tomorrow until Nov. 25 upon the request of “close family friend” Coron Mayor Clara Reyes.

Allowing pageant contestants to stay in the resort would promote Coron as premier tourist destination, he added.

Earlier, Navotas City Rep. Tobias Tiangco, United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) interim president and spokesman, asked the organizers of the Miss Earth International pageant to reconsider their arrangement with the Coron Underwater Garden Resort, saying the resort was a fruit of Mercado’s ill-gotten wealth.

“While I fully support initiatives to showcase the beauty of the Philippines, specifically that of the islands of Palawan, and help promote responsible tourism in the area, I have second thoughts over holding an international event in the 100-hectare Coron Underwater Garden Resort in Palawan,” Tiangco said in a letter to Carousel Productions’ Ramon Monzon and Lorraine Schuck Thursday.

However, Mercado said his ownership of the “islet” was fully documented by the Coron municipal government.

Mercado was placed under the DOJ witness protection program after he exposed alleged anomalies in Makati City when the Vice President was still mayor. He said he left Manila on Nov. 18 and is expected back on Nov. 30.

Nothing wrong

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima sees nothing wrong with Mercado’s US trip.

“Without confirming or denying (the flight), let me just state that there is nothing in the WPP law that prohibits a witness from leaving the country. We are not jailers,” she told reporters in an ambush interview.

De Lima explained that while witnesses covered by the WPP are discouraged from traveling abroad, they cannot be prevented from doing so – especially if the trip is necessary.

“I don’t want to give any information on that because we all know that there is confidentiality provision in the WPP law, essentially because of security reasons,” she explained when asked for details of Mercado’s trip. She also declined to say if Mercado had been provided security escorts.

Mercado reportedly left the country for Los Angeles on Philippine Airlines flight PR 102.

De Lima told senators during the budget hearing last Thursday that they were not ruling out investigating Mercado on allegations of corruption raised by the camp of Binay. – Edu Punay, Janvic Mateo, Helen Flores


FROM THE TRIBUNE

COA raised red flags anew on Taguig projects allegedly spent for LANI scholarship funds  Written by Alvin Murcia Monday, 24 November 2014 00:00

The Commission on Audit (CoA) had raised the red flag anew on the city government of Taguig whose officials in the bailiwick of Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano were ordered to properly account for the release of more than P178.4 million in public funds which was allegedly spent for the LANI scholarship program and the birthday cash gifts given to senior citizens last year to avoid the possible issuance of a notice of suspension.

Taguig City has for its mayor Ma. Laarni “Lani” Cayetano (photo), the wife of the senator.

Senator Cayetano is at the forefront of attacks against Vice President Binay, who he along with his colleagues Senators Koko Pimentel and Sonny Trillanes in the Senate blue ribbon subcommittee alleged Binay of having engaged in several anomalies when he was mayor of Makati City.

CoA auditors issued the warning in the 2013 audit report on the city released over the weekend.

State auditors said cash advances for the scholarship grants as well as birthday and cash gifts for senior citizens in the amounts of P156.105 million and P22.321 million, respectively, were not supported with approved or valid list of payees.

The report showed claims against government funds have to be supported with complete documentation adding that as per auditing rules, cash advances shall be equal to the amount of the payroll for a pay period.

“Audit of the cash advance disbursement vouchers for scholarship programs amounting to P156,105,000 and senior citizens’ birthday and cash gifts in the amount of P22,321,500 disclosed that these were not supported with the list of payees or payroll,” the report of the COA auditors said.

The report was submitted by the state auditors to Mayor Cayetano which she received last September 3.

The COA report noted that for the senior citizens, only the list of the 28 barangays and Obligation Request (ObR) were attached to the disbursement vouchers.

The audit team said some of the disbursement vouchers for scholarship programs were supported with ObR only, and there were others which were supported only with the lists of LANI scholars per district per school with the corresponding amount.

The report also noted the huge excess of cash advances for cash gifts for senior citizens amounting to P6.34 million wherein one accountable officer had a cash refund of more than P2 million, two months after the date of the grant of cash advance and another accountable officer who had made three refunds of over P1 million each almost a month after the grant.

It also mentioned the liquidation payrolls showing that 28.4 percent of the payees did not claim, notwithstanding the long period of time allotted within which the SC to get their benefits.

The excess cash were refunded and recorded either as payable to the payees named in the payroll or as a deduction to expense for those who were deceased,” the findings added.

State auditors said the absence or lack of proper monitoring and updates on statistical records of the senior citizens were the main reason of the excess cash advances, noting that excess cash advances for the scholarship programs also had a total of P1.9 million in 2013.

Officials of the city government explained that the disbursement vouchers are supported by payrolls indicating the list of recipients and argued that last year’s cash advances was not excessive since the amounts returned are due to the failure of some recipients to claim their benefits.

It also claimed that they will study the possibility of issuing ATM cards to recipients as an alternative manner of distribution but the audit team said it “still insist and require the immediate submission of the list of payees to support the disbursement vouchers otherwise, Notice of Suspension will be issued.”

The accounting office of the city should ensure that at least three copies of approved list of payees are attached to the voucher as the second and third copies will be for the payees to sign and acknowledge the receipt of payment.

One copy of the properly receipted payroll will be attached to the liquidation report and one copy each for the file of the accountable officer and the Accounting Office.

The city government was told through the Office of the Senior Citizens to maintain an updated data file or record of their members in coordination with the barangays and require monthly report from the associations at the barangay level.

The city earlier earned other red flags from CoA for projects and use of funds in 2012.

Several projects in Taguig funded by the P165-million pork barrel of the senator, who has been styling himself lately as a graft-buster, got a red flag from CoA for being riddled with irregularities, among them the “ghost” purchase of so-called “firebusters” for a barangay.

The findings of irregularities in the pork barrel projects of Cayetano were mentioned on pages 396 and 397 of the CoA report on the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of members of Congress from 2009 to 2010.

The report gained infamy when CoA chairman Grace Pulido-Tan at a press conference in 2013 used the word “kahindik-hindik” (atrocious) to describe how the legislators misused their pork barrel funds.

According to CoA, P400,000 worth of “firebusters” were purchased with Cayetano’s PDAF for the use of Barangay Calzada but far from being fire extinguishers, the firebusters were actually mere container drums with pails.

The CoA audit indicated the supplier, aside from not being licensed to conduct business, had denied entering into a contract to sell “firebusters.”

“The supplier of firebuster, Pinoy Inventions Inc. did not even have a business permit to operate. …The supplier did not confirm its transactions with the LGU (local government unit),” the CoA report said.

Other questionable projects include a house numbering program billed as a “poverty alleviation program” for Barangay Calzada which did not undergo a required public bidding, according to the CoA report.

The project is also not included in the menu of projects that can be funded under the defunct PDAF and the end users did not make a request for such a program, CoA said.

The state auditing agency also cited the questionable purchase of handheld radios for Barangay Ligid without bidding, as required by government procurement rules.

No receipts or invoices were submitted, and the project does not qualify under the menu of programs to be funded by PDAF.

The CoA also found questionable the purchase of uniforms for employees of Barangay Ligid. The CoA said the purchase was not bidded out, no receipts or invoices were submitted, and the project is not included in the menu of programs eligible for PDAF funding. “There was also no request made by the barangay itself for the said uniforms,” the CoA said.

Purchases of a mini-ambulance, motorcycles with sidecar, and am ambulance were also “not supported by request of end user, evaluation report on need to procure such items and assess eligibility, receipt or sales invoice, list of distribution, proof of posting in PhilGEPS (the government procurement Web site) and conspicuous places,” the report said.

The CoA annual report also questioned the hiring by the Taguig city government, under Mayor Lani Cayetano, the senator’s wife, of 3,188 casuals in 2012, for which city government spent P320 million.

Majority of these employees merely submitted daily time records instead of logging in their attendance using biometric machines, raising the possibility that a large number of these hires were “ghost employees.”

The CoA “red flagged” the Taguig local government’s gargantuan expenditure for its casuals, citing the failure of the administration of Mayor Cayetano to regularize workers for the city.

This contractualization of Taguig government service, preferring an army of casuals who do not receive regular benefits and with no job security over professional civil servants, can be likened to the job contractualization scheme employed by mall owners who mass-hire temporary workers and mass-dump them before the sixth month to avoid absorbing them in the regular work force.

The CoA also noted deficiencies in determining if all these 3,000 casuals were warm bodies or “ghost employees” not reporting for work but receiving salaries. The audit agency noted that not all the casuals punched in using biometric machines. Majority merely submitted written daily time records, the CoA noted.

The CoA said 1,258 of these casuals were hired for the Business Development and IT Technology Program. This makes Taguig the only local government unit so far with the biggest IT workforce in the Philippines.

Based on the CoA report, Taguig would have one city-paid IT professional for every 600 residents, a ratio that beats industrialized cities such as New York, London and Paris.

Again according to CoA, 923 of these casuals were assigned to “community welfare” work and the rest were assigned to the “Infrastructure Development Program.” The 1,007 casual employees assigned to infrastructure projects is equivalent to the number of laborers of five engineering districts of the Department of Public Works and Highways.

The huge number of casuals in the city also raised the question on how 3,188 employees were accomodated in the city government’s offices.


EARLIER REPORT FROM THE TRIBUNE

CoA flags Cayetanos’ funds use in bailiwick Written by Tribune Wires Monday, 11 August 2014 00:00

TAGUIG CITY HIRED 3,000 CASUALS


ALAN CAYETANO

Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano and his wife, Taguig City Mayor Lani Cayetano, who dominate politics in Taguig City have earned red flags from the Commission on Audit (CoA) for projects and use of funds in their bailiwick based on the reports of state auditors for 2012.

Several projects in Taguig funded by the P165-million pork barrel of the senator, who has been styling himself lately as a graft-buster, got a red flag from CoA for being riddled with irregularities, among them the “ghost” purchase of so-called “firebusters” for a barangay.

The findings of irregularities in the pork barrel projects of Cayetano were mentioned on pages 396 and 397 of the CoA report on the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of members of Congress from 2009 to 2010.

The report gained infamy when CoA chairman Grace Pulido-Tan at a press conference in 2013 used the word “kahindik-hindik” (atrocious) to describe how the legislators misused their pork barrel funds.

According to CoA, P400,000 worth of “firebusters” were purchased with Cayetano’s PDAF for the use of Barangay Calzada but far from being fire extinguishers, the firebusters were actually mere container drums with pails.

The CoA audit indicated the supplier, aside from not being licensed to conduct business, had denied entering into a contract to sell “firebusters.”

“The supplier of firebuster, Pinoy Inventions Inc. did not even have a business permit to operate. …The supplier did not confirm its transactions with the LGU (local government unit),” the CoA report said.

Other questionable projects include a house numbering program billed as a “poverty alleviation program” for Barangay Calzada which did not undergo a required public bidding, according to the CoA report.

The project is also not included in the menu of projects that can be funded under the defunct PDAF and the end users did not make a request for such a program, CoA said.

The state auditing agency also cited the questionable purchase of handheld radios for Barangay Ligid without bidding, as required by government procurement rules.

No receipts or invoices were submitted, and the project does not qualify under the menu of programs to be funded by PDAF.

The CoA also found questionable the purchase of uniforms for employees of Barangay Ligid. The CoA said the purchase was not bidded out, no receipts or invoices were submitted, and the project is not included in the menu of programs eligible for PDAF funding. “There was also no request made by the barangay itself for the said uniforms,” the CoA said.

Purchases of a mini-ambulance, motorcycles with sidecar, and am ambulance were also “not supported by request of end user, evaluation report on need to procure such items and assess eligibility, receipt or sales invoice, list of distribution, proof of posting in PhilGEPS (the government procurement Web site) and conspicuous places,” the report said.

The CoA annual report also questioned the hiring by the Taguig city government, under Mayor Lani Cayetano, the senator’s wife, of 3,188 casuals in 2012, for which city government spent P320 million.

Majority of these employees merely submitted daily time records instead of logging in their attendance using biometric machines, raising the possibility that a large number of these hires were “ghost employees.”

The CoA “red flagged” the Taguig local government’s gargantuan expenditure for its casuals, citing the failure of the administration of Mayor Cayetano to regularize workers for the city.

This contractualization of Taguig government service, preferring an army of casuals who do not receive regular benefits and with no job security over professional civil servants, can be likened to the job contractualization scheme employed by mall owners who mass-hire temporary workers and mass-dump them before the sixth month to avoid absorbing them in the regular work force.

The CoA also noted deficiencies in determining if all these 3,000 casuals were warm bodies or “ghost employees” not reporting for work but receiving salaries. The audit agency noted that not all the casuals punched in using biometric machines. Majority merely submitted written daily time records, the CoA noted.

The CoA said 1,258 of these casuals were hired for the Business Development and IT Technology Program. This makes Taguig the only local government unit so far with the biggest IT workforce in the Philippines.

Based on the CoA report, Taguig would have one city-paid IT professional for every 600 residents, a ratio that beats industrialized cities such as New York, London and Paris.

Again according to CoA, 923 of these casuals were assigned to “community welfare” work and the rest were assigned to the “Infrastructure Development Program.” The 1,007 casual employees assigned to infrastructure projects is equivalent to the number of laborers of five engineering districts of the Department of Public Works and Highways.

The huge number of casuals in the city also raised the question on how 3,188 employees were accommodated in the city government’s offices.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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