MANILA — Senate President Franklin Drilon on Wednesday thanked the Office of the Ombudsman for acting promptly on the case filed against him and two others in connection with the construction of the Iloilo Convention Center (ICC).
”We are grateful that the Ombudsman acted promptly on the case, for it was not only my reputation — which I have worked so hard for the past 30 years — that was being maligned,” Drilon said in a press statement.
Drilon confirmed that the Ombudsman junked the case against him, Public Works and Highways Secretary Rogelio Singson, and Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr. for lack of evidence.
In its 27-page decision, the Ombudsman said that “there is no basis for this Office to charge respondents with malversation of public funds and plunder.”
“There is also no specific evidence that respondents appropriated, misappropriated, consented, or through abandonment or negligence, permitted another to take the subject funds,” it added.
The Ombudsman also criticized former Iloilo provincial administrator Manuel Mejorada for relying on online sources in filing his case.
It can be remembered that Mejorada himself, during the Senate hearing, admitted that he had no material evidence to prove his allegations, and that he merely relied on online sources such as “Wikipedia.”
“Complainant’s reliance to online sources cannot be given credence in establishing the culpability of respondents. Given the seriousness of the allegation, complainant should come forward not with unreliable sources but with concrete evidence,” the Ombudsman stressed.
It also said that Mejorada’s allegation that the total cost of the ICC should have only been pegged at Php192,000,000 is “misplaced.”
It added that the complainant’s assertion of the industry standard of Php30,000 per square meter ”has no actual basis or supporting evidence.”
Contrary to Mejorada’s claim of undue injury to the government, the Ombudsman found out that the government was even able to save a huge amount of money allotted for the ICC’s design.
The Ombdusman also dismissed Mejorada’s claim that there was no public bidding conducted for the project.
”Contrary to complainant’s allegation of rigged bidding, competitive bidding was still observed even during the negotiated procurement stage,” it underscored.
Lastly, the Ombudsman stressed that “having failed to establish the commission by respondents of the criminal offenses charged, it finds it unnecessary to dwell on the alleged existence of conspiracy (among Drilon, Singson, Jimenez, and others).”
Drilon said that the dismissal of the case just goes to show that “the baseless and malicious allegations hurled against the ICC are completely without merit.”
“I have always been confident since day one in the Office of the Ombudsman’s wisdom and competence to see through these lies concocted to discredit us and to jeopardize the implementation of the ICC,” he said.