The Untold Story of Muntinlupa’s People’s Center

September 15, 2019

LAST Monday, I was invited to attend a public hearing called by the Muntinlupa Sangguniang Panglungsod.

It was a pleasant experience to once again set foot at the People’s Center, which houses the city council. While I have often been invited to functions at the Muntinlupa’s city hall, I rarely had the need to pass by the People’s Center.

The public hearing was called by the Committee on Appropriations, chaired by Majority Floor Leader Raul Corro, assisted by Councilor Jun Sevilla.

On the agenda was the proposed sale to the city government  of two pieces of property, situated in Ilaya, Alabang, as a possible site of a City Health Center in Alabang.

This writer attended in behalf of the Bunye family which owned the properties.

Also in attendance were  Vice Mayor Temy Simundac, Councilors  Ivee Arciaga Tadefa, Ting Niefes, Alexson Diaz, Louie Arciaga, Allan Camilon, Marissa Rongavilla, Arlene Hilapo, Lester Baes, Ryan Bagatsing, Nep Santiago and Sanggunian Secretary Cecil Lazarte.

It was almost 3:30 p.m. when our agenda item was called.

Prior to this, the Committee on Appropriations heard proposals from various national agencies, covering proposed Memoranda of Agreement (MOA) involving national projects which were proposed to be implemented within Muntinlupa City.

When it was my turn to speak before the committee, I narrated, by way of an ice breaker, the extraordinary story behind the construction of the People’s Center.

Unknown to many, except perhaps for  Majority Floor Leader Corro (who was the Municipal Attorney at the time of the building’s construction), the People’s Center is the only building constructed by the local government for which it did not spend a single centavo.

The city council was astonished!

Here was how it happened.

In 1986, when I assumed office as OIC Mayor of Muntinlupa, (following Edsa 1), Muntinlupa was still classified as a fifth class municipality. The municipality was only  making P28 million a year, barely covering the salaries of employees. But it had valuable properties. No, I am not referring to the New Bilibid Prison.

One such property occupies what is now the Alabang Jeepney Terminal.
In 1988, the local government decided to offer the property for a joint venture mixed-use development. Immediately, four developers expressed keen interest.

During the pre-bid conference, I explained the ground rules. To prequalify, the bidders must have 1) financial capacity   2) proven development track record and 3) very important, must have at the time of the submission of their sealed bids,  a manager’s check, payable to the Municipality of Muntinlupa, in the amount of P200 Million.

The check would serve as a cash performance bond.

It was made clear that the deciding factor for awarding the project would be the total development cost, as validated by construction plans and financials.

Immediately, two prospective bidders backed out, leaving only two men standing.

On the scheduled bid date, Bidder A and Bidder B arrived. Both submitted their manager’s checks and their sealed bid documents.

When the sealed offers were opened, it was immediately clear that Bidder A submitted the superior bid.  I thanked Bidder B for their interest in participating and immediately returned Bidder B’s manager’s check.

Bidder A jubilantly notified  Bidder A’s foreign partner.

Eddie (Eddie who? Eddie ako!) immediately deposited the P200 Million check with PNB, which at that time was still  the  depositary bank of the Municipality of Muntinlupa.

Everything went well until Gringo intervened. The next few months in 1989 were marred by repeated coup attempts. Bidder A’s Taiwanese foreign partner got scared and backed out.

Not long after,  a forlorn Bidder A came to my office. He informed me of the bad news that his foreign partner had backed out. He also requested if he could be refunded the P200 Million, considering that the non-performance of his contractual obligation was caused by “force majeure”.

Bidder A was legally correct. I returned his P200 million, but retained the interest earned on the deposit to compensate the local government for opportunity loss.

The local government earned P5 million and that was how we were able to construct the People’s Center.

I am often amused reading signs posted on jeepneys proclaiming the source of their provenance, eg. “Katas ng Saudi”, “Katas ng Pawis”.

If I were to think of a tagline to appropriately describe the People’s Center, it would be “Kinita sa Kudeta!”

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