By Pet Melliza/ The Beekeeper
At P792 million, the new Iloilo City Hall holds the record of being the costliest in the metropolis with tab hitting past P50,000 per square meter that is, to be multiplied by its estimated floor area of 14,000 square meters.
The city earmarked P350 million to erect it during the first term of one named Buenaventura Geronimo a.k.a.”Jerry”, surnamed Treñas. He finished his 2001-2004 term as mayor and not a slab of hollow block was laid for the seven-storey edifice despite available funds and the authority given by the local legislature.
For his second term, 2004-2007, construction never took off; the money earmarked for that rose from the P350 million to P450 million that creditor Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) approved.
The United Architects of the Philippines – Iloilo cried against the huge estimate and volunteered gratis et amore to erect a city hall at P350 million plus another floor to boot, making it to eight. For some reasons, Buenaventura Geronimo ignored it.
The first phase of construction began in June 2007, after Treñas’s third and last election for city mayor. He had the old city hall, then occupied by the executive department, abandoned and transferred to a mall. The city government tore down the old structure, in a project tainted with controversy.
The bids and awards committee awarded the demolition contract to the bidder who offered P800,000. Treñas annulled the public bidding and awarded the contract via executive fiat (negotiated contract) to one lucky soul who placed the tag of P1.2 million. That’s something illegal nevertheless, he still got away with it.
The salvaged materials from the old structure – galvanized sheets, wooden beams and slabs, window frames, steel bars, air-conditioners, wirings – disappeared in a bodega somewhere in Mandurriao. They could still fetch more than P5 M conservative estimate, if sold to a local junkyard.
The transfer to Robinson’s Place is shrouded in mystery. After his first victory in 2001, the first move of Buenaventura Geronimo was terminate the contract with Lorenzo Jamora’s Mary Mart Mall which housed the different offices of the legislative department of the city government, and moved the sangguniang panglungsod to the Terminal Market.
Treñas waited for more than six years, in June 2007 to begin the works of the new city hall, which aside from the shadowy negotiated contract for the demolition, still whipped up another controversy – the architectural design that members of the city council never saw but for which Buenaventura Geronimo already paid P12 million, an opus that competed with the masterpieces of Malang.
I won’t delve on the broad daylight robbery of the grossly overpriced structure done during the three terms of, if not by, Buenaventura Geronimo, now Rep. Jerry Treñas.
I wish Rommel Ynion, Iloilo Press Club president, the dogged determination to prosecute his criminal and administrative complaint on public officials behind the shenanigan, one of them Buenaventura Geronimo, suspected capo di tuti capi of the cabal.
The P450 million of Treñas and cabal is only good to erect the bare skeleton of the city hall. It does not include yet the elevators, standby generator, central air-conditioning system, cabling for electricity, cable TV and telephone, toilet bowls and wash basins, parking lots originally in the lower floors, and furnishings like tiling, windows and doors of offices.
The Iloilo Provincial Capitol, a six-leval but bigger structure completed in 2004 at P450 million, has four elevators, a standby generator, furnishings, glass windows and partitions, parking lots and a central air conditioning system. Gov. Niel D. Tupas,SJr., was still hit by critics for “overpricing” the structure.
Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog might have no liability for the scandal, he being just a councilor in 2004-2007 and vice-mayor in 2007-2010. But he could be held accountable for rushing for the release of another amount, P294 million, for finishing the structure.
Ynion warns Mabilog he might drag the latter in court if he implemented the supplementary budget of P295 million. Contractors, including Mr. Ynion, insist that the city need only an additional P50 million to complete it. To them, P15,000 would suffice as cost for every square meter of floor area.
Mabilog is known for his doggedness. He denies that taxpayers will be injured because the new city hall will be a “self-liquidating”, it will repay its costs from its earnings.How in heaven, or hell, would that be, is as mysterious as one of his mouthpieces who has earned the reputation as an activist, now singing hallelujahs for an indefensible project that can never be self-liquidating.