Trillanes, Pimentel inspect 'overpriced' Makati Science HS bldg
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – After an ocular inspection of the new Makati Science High School building, two senators leading a probe into alleged overpriced government buildings in Makati City said they still have to be convinced that the structure is worth P1.3 billion.
Senators Aquilino Pimentel III and Antonio Trillanes IV, who conducted the inspection on Saturday, November 15, said that the school building "looks good," but a mere physical inspection of the structure cannot determine whether or not it is overpriced.
"Compared to the other government buildings I've been to, I'm satisfied with what I've seen. Mukha namang matibay (It seems to be sturdy) and safe for the students," said Pimentel.
Trillanes said that "the building itself, by observation, maganda naman (looks good)" but one question still remains.
"The question here is: was this paid at the right price? That's what we will determine in this investigation. We will counter-check the documents and the plans, and compare it with the actual structure that we saw," said Trillanes.
According to plans submitted by Makati City, each classroom in the school building costs P24.69 million, on average. But a former Binay ally, lawyer Renato Bondal, claimed it should only cost P620,812, based on a computation by the Department of Education (DepEd).
Furthermore, following the Davis Langdon and Seah Construction Cost Handbook, a square meter of classroom should only cost P25,620, but Makati's plans show that it costs P72,554.20.
Trillanes said, "As it is, without knowing the price, it's really nice compared to other public high schools. But, if we find out that we paid more than a billion for this, let's take a second look. It's actually the price of a nice office building at the Bonifacio Global City [in Taguig City]."
During the ocular inspection, the senators saw that the 8th to 10 floors are not yet complete, with the dormitories on the 8th floor not yet ready for occupancy, and the theater/auditorium at the 9th and 10th floors still under construction.
"We will clarify this point, about the rules of the Commission on Audit (COA) about the turnover of an unfinished project," Pimentel said.
They also noticed that most, if not all, of the regular classrooms do not have airconditioning units, with ceiling fans and stand fans providing ventilation.
Pimentel reserved his comments, however, on the issue of overpricing, saying that an ocular inspection "would not be able to answer the issue immediately."
"Ocular inspection is not one way to resolve an overpricing allegation. We could go through an appraisal, we could go to a quantity surveyor, we could use a comparison approach or a cost-per-square meter approach," he added.
"We will take a look at the final cost to make it operational as a science school building, including the cost of computers and laboratory equipment. The P1.3 billion is a preliminary figure as to the structure," Pimentel said.
The Makati Science High School building is said to be overpriced like the Makati City Hall Building II, the subject of an ongoing Senate probe.
The building was inaugurated in February 2014. It has 35 regular classrooms, 18 laboratories and special classrooms, and one reading center.
At a Senate blue ribbon subcommittee hearing on November 6, Bondal alleged that the 10-storey building was overpriced by around P862 million.
Bondal is among those who filed a plunder case against Vice President Jejomar Binay and his son, Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin "Junjun" Binay Jr over the alleged overpriced Makati City Hall Building 2.
Accusations a 'guesswork'
Following the senators' ocular inspection, the Binay camp of said that Bondal's "outrageous claim" is not anchored on logic but on "fuzzy math."
"The construction of Makati Science High School underwent public bidding as required by law. The project also passed audit by COA," said Joey Salgado, a spokesperson of the Vice President.
Salgado said that Bondal "conveniently overlooks the fact that the total construction cost includes the cost of the school's foundation, finishing, and facilities."
He added that Bondal's claims are "guesswork or hula-hula that won't pass scrutiny in a court of law," and reiterated that the senators involved in the probe have already "pre-judged" the Vice-President.
"This is no surprise to us since the senators have pre-judged the issue from the start," Salgado said. – Rappler.com