Is 'tainted' construction firm behind new Senate building? Duterte asks Gordon

Published September 28, 2021, 11:14 AM

by Ellson Quismorio

Did the Senate tap a “tainted” contractor for the construction of its new building in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City?

President Rodrigo Duterte (Malacañang photo)

President Duterte asked this question on late Monday night, Sept. 27, during the pre-recorded “Talk to the People” public briefing.

He specifically directed his query to Senator Richard Gordon, chairman of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committe. The Blue Ribbon panel is the one that usually carries out investigations in aid of legislation on graft and corruption issues in government.

“Ah ito para kay Gordon lang rin (This is for Gordon also) May I ask the senators if it is true that the Hilmarc’s — Hilmarc’s is the contractor of the new Senate building being constructed?” Duterte, asked referring to Hilmarc’s Construction Corporation (HCC).

“Is this the same Hilmarc contractor that built the Iloilo Convention Center (ICC) and the Makati City Hall Building II that the Senate also investigated during the last administration?” the President noted.

The P700-million ICC and P2.29 billion Makati City Hall Building II were both probed by the Senate for their alleged overpriced construction.

The construction of the new Senate building, which costs P8.9 billion, began in March 2019. To say the very least, it might raise some eyebrows if the Senate confirms that its new home was being built by a company with a controversial track record.

The Chief Executive also prodded Gordon to release the report on the investigation on the ICC and the Makati City Hall Building II.

“Gusto ko rin malaman na sa iyo, Mr. Gordon, ‘yung dalawang building paki-report na rin sa tao (Mr. Gordon, I want to know from you, please report to the people about the two buildings). The reason why the people are also interested in the investigation, in the audit, is gusto ng tao buksan ninyo ang libro para makita kung saan tumakbo ‘yung pera (is because the people want you to open the books and see where the money went),” he said.

Gordon’s current stint as senator only began in June 2016, meaning he wasn’t in the Senate yet when the ICC and Makati City Hall Building II were being investigated. Duterte also began his Palace term in June 2016.

The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee has been conducting marathon hearings on the alleged purchase of overpriced coronavirus disease (COVID-19) supplies from Pharmally Pharmaceuticals.

The Duterte administration had awarded Pharmally with pandemic response contracts worth nearly P8.68 billion in 2020, or when COVID-19 first emerged in the Philippines.

Duterte had described the Gordon-led inquiry as a “witch hunt” or an attempt to uncover issues of corruption against the administration ahead of the May 2022 national elections.