A divided House

"What was the turning point, I wonder."



In an earlier column, I predicted that when members of the House of Representatives hold a session again, numbers would decide who would be the next Speaker—Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano, or Rep. Lord Allan Velasco.

True enough, when House members met last Monday, 186 of them went for Velasco, and all Cayetano could do was to hold a media briefing to say that the voting was a travesty.

There were several factors that went for Velasco. The most important of them was that there was a term-sharing agreement between him and Cayetano, brokered by no less than President Rodrigo Duterte. It’s called palabra de honor, Santa Banana!

There was also the fact that while the President vowed that he would not meddle in the affairs of the House, he made himself clear to the lawmakers.

There was also presidential daughter and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, who met with Velasco and later on campaigned for him. Insiders sat that the intervention of Sara was the turning point for the 186 House members who went for Velasco.

It’s good that the Speakership issue has been resolved. We need the speedy passage of the P4.5-trillion national budget, especially at this point when the nation is reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic.

To say that things in the House, would settle is far from possible. The Cayetano camp will not take what happened sitting down. They will be the problem of the Velasco camp, especially if the new Speaker starts changing the committee chairmanships and replacing the deputy speakers.

The same problem will crop up since a new Speaker is expected to satisfy the needs of every member of the House. The result will be a House divided, my gulay!

Can Velasco satisfy the needs of his colleagues? Every lawmaker is expecting his or her pork barrel, even though it now goes by another name.

Certainly there will be other problems. Santa Banana, that is how it is in politics—where self-interest comes first and foremost!

* * *

As a follow-up to my Friday column regarding the Bases Conversion Development Authority’s joint venture with the MTD Capital Berhad, I would like to say that the more I go over the agreement, the more suspicious I get!

On October 5, when the Senate tackled the BCDA budget for 2021, Senator Nancy Binay brought up an observation of the Commission on Audit that the deal was prejudicial to the interest of the government.

Recall that former Government Corporate Counsel Rudolf Philip Jurado issued a contract review dated January 30, 2018 regarding this joint venture.

The JV was intended to pave the way for the construction of the National Government Administrative Center (that would serve as a backup government office) and sports facilities that included a 20,000-seater athletic stadium, a 2,000-seater aquatic center, and an athlete’s village for the 2019 Southeast Asian Games.

Based on the draft JVA reviewed by Jurado (my nephew), the contract price for the project was P12.695 billion—P4.185 billion for the NGAC and P8.510 billion for the sports facilities.

The contract review, issued by the OGCC, is needed before any Government- Owned and -Controlled Corporation like the BCDA could enter into a contract.

Jurado concluded that the construction of the sports facilities was actually a Build and Transfer scheme disguised as a JVA. He said that the project must undergo public bidding.

Jurado likewise opposed Section 8 of the JVA as it required BCDA to reimburse MTD all expenses which the latter would incur, in addition to receiving its share of the profits.

Jurado directed the BCDA to revise Section 8 to comply with applicable laws.

Do you know what the BCDA did despite the absence of the necessary green light by the OGCC? It proceeded with the JVA. Worse, there seems to have been a provision inserted after the contract review was done—one granting MTD an additional P2.490 billion as reasonable costs and returns for the construction of the sports facilities.

This meant that the total contract price for the sports facilities increased from P8.510 billion to P11 billion, my gulay! This is not only questionable—it smacks of corruption.

This is the reason I have been asking for a Senate investigation.

Why is MTD so favored? What is in it for the BCDA? And why did the OGCC—after Jurado was eventually ousted—claim that the JV was legal and above board?

Topics: Emil Jurado , House of Representatives , Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano , Rep. Lord Allan Velasco , House Speaker , Bases Conversion Development Authority , BCDA
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