Power and Controversy: the Makati City Hall Complex

If you have been keeping tabs with the news these past few days, there was no way you would not have heard the controversy behind the alleged overpricing of the Makati City Hall Building II. Yes, that building built at PhP 2.4 billion which is said to be overpriced by PhP 1.6 billion.

Now the Urban Roamer is not an expert on construction costs, nor does it dabble in political commentary. However, that does not preclude one from talking about the greater story which itself is interesting, the story of the Makati City Hall complex.

We begin this story in 1961, right at the time when Makati was beginning to develop into the urban center we know today. At that time, Makati was still a town of the Province of Rizal and its municipal hall was a quaint 2-storey structure built way back in 1918. By itself, the building is of great historic significance, but it was no longer adequate to meet the needs of a town in the cusp of boom.

the first Makati municipal building built in 1918, now converted into a museum

A decision was made by the administration of then Mayor Maximo Estrella (can anyone confirm if Estrella Street in Makati was named after him?) to build a new municipal hall located a kilometer or so away. By 1962, Makati now had a new municipal hall which has more office space, a more contemporary architecture, not to mention an elevated ramp like that found in hotels.

Since then, many changes have come to this town. Makati’s boom became a reality by the late 1960s and has never looked back since. Years later in 1975, Makati was separated from Rizal to become part of the Metropolitan Manila area. Then came the first People Power Revolution in 1986 which helped catapult the Binay family to Makati’s political scene since then. But perhaps the most notable of these developments would be the attainment of a long overdue cityhood status for the town, which was finally realized in 1995.

Makati’s cityhood brought about new needs for the city that needs to be addressed, in this case the need for more spaces for its growing bureaucracy that the municipal building then could no longer accommodate.  Thus, it was decided that a new city hall building would be constructed not only to serve the needs of a city in boom, but also would serve as a status symbol of sorts signifying Makati’s status as a premier urban hub.

The 22-storey Makati City Hall building was soon built right behind the old municipal builiding and was completed by 2000. Most city offices, including the offices of the elected city officials and the courts are housed in this building while some offices remained at the old building. The new building was pegged as the country’s first “intelligent” public building as has a computerized building automation and management system. Truthfully, the Urban Roamer has never been inside this building so such claims cannot be validated. (perhaps the readers may share their views on this) Nevertheless, the construction of this structure was not without controversy as allegations of overpricing have been raised over the years, even today in conjunction with that of a new building in the complex. Which brings us to…

Apparently, the needs of a booming city were not enough for two buildings to handle. Thus in 2012, construction began on the 12-storey Makati City Hall Building II, which would serve as a parking building, as well as office space for some of the city’s offices, most especially the city data center. Like its bigger sibling, Building II is said to have some advanced features like LED lighting, glass panels, and a landscaped roofdeck. And like its bigger sibling, it is also subject to controversy which is the one we are seeing at this time.

Given the nature of Philippine politics, how this will end up is anyone’s guess but it would most likely depend if this will be over before the 2016 elections or if beyond, whoever will be in power by that time. We can only hope that the truth behind all this controversy will be fully revealed and whoever is at fault would be given their due justice.

Then again, that would be a big “if.”


As a postscript for this entry, I would like to share another discovery I bumped into during my little roaming adventure at the Makati City Hall complex.

There is a little park/plaza fronting the old municipal building which features a statue of Jose Rizal, as well as some quotes coming from Rizal, Andres Bonifacio, Ninoy Aquino, and…Jejomar Binay?

Make that what you will.


Acknowledgements as well to Wikipedia, Manila Standard Today, Makati City Government, and Sun Star Manila

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