A face-off between Vice President Jejomar Binay and Senator Antonio Trillanes IV looms after the latter, one of three senators investigating Binay’s alleged corruption during his term as Makati City Mayor, accepted the Vice President’s challenge for a debate “outside of the Senate.”
In an open forum with members of the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas on Tuesday night, Binay said Trillanes should not hide behind his parliamentary immunity and challenged him to a debate.
“I’m willing, if you want you can sponsor. I’m willing to debate with Trillanes. I’ll appear in all your forum,” Binay said.
Sought for his response to the Vice President’s challenge, Trillanes said he’s ready, and even suggested the alleged ‘Hacienda Binay’ in Batangas as venue.
“I am ready even in his beautiful Hacienda Binay.
Just set the time and date. Meet me there,” said Trillanes, a former military officer who led several coup attempts against the administration of former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Trillanes was referring to 350-hectare property in Rosario, Batangas, which former Makati Vice Mayor Ernesto Mercado said is owned by Binay.
The sprawling property, which Mercado tagged as ‘Hacienda Binay” has two mansions, one with a British garden and another with a man-made lagoon; an airconditioned piggery; a huge garagae which can accommodate 40 vehicles, and an orchidarium with different varieties of orchids from around the world.
The Vice President has refused to attend the ongoing Senate Blue Ribbon subcommittee hearing on the alleged overpriced Makati City Hall Building 2 allegedly involving Binay and him and Makati Mayor Junjun binay.
Binay said he had already been prejudged by the senators conducting the hearing, referring to Trillanes, Senate Majority Alan Peter Cayetano and Koko Pimentel, which chairs the committee looking at the alleged corrupt practices of Binay and the rest of his family.
He described the Senate hearing as “kangaroo” court which had prejudged his entire family.
“So why would I go there. That’s beyond in aid of legislation. This is really a demolition. And they’re saying, this investigation is to show that the Vice President is not qualified to be a president. So there’s politics there. That’s hypocrisy,” Binay said.
But the camp of the Vice President earlier said Binay would attend the hearing only if the Senate Blue Ribbon mother committee would send him an invitation.
On Tuesday afternoon, Blue Ribbon committee chairman Senator Teofisto Guingona sent out an invitation to Binay to appear in the 10th hearing set on October 30.
Guingona said he had acceded to the challenge of Binay and assured the Vice President that he would be afforded fair treatment, sufficient time and due respect.
Meanwhlle, returning to the witness stand, former Makati Vice Mayor Ernesto testified that Binay acquired a P15.6 million log cabin in a luxurious residential community in Tagaytay Highlands when he was still mayor.
He said the three-bedroom log cabin property at The Woodlands was not included in Binay’s Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth.
In a slide presentation, he showed documents to prove Binay’s ownership of the Tagaytay property, which included a reservation letter for the property dated January 31, 1997.
The letter, addressed to then Mayor Binay, read, ‘’We are pleased to inform you that you have been allocated a Redwood type 3-bedroom unit at The Woodlands at Tagaytay Highlands. The purchase price is P15,600,000.”
Mercado, who has been placed under the government’s witness protection program said 20% of the purchase price, or P3.12 million, was to be paid for the signing of the reservation agreement, while 5% of the purchase price, or P780,000, was to be paid monthly starting March 4, 1997, and every 15th day of the month thereafter until the delivery of the unit.
Another memo dated May 9, 1997, indicated a 10-percent discount was obtained for the purchase of the property. In the same memo, a note which reads ‘TO M1: Your copy on the price and schedule of payments. Gerry,’ is written.
Mercado said M1 refers to Binay, while Gerry is Gerardo Limlingan, whom the former vice mayor earlier accused of being the vice-president’s bagman and dummy.
‘He passed that letter to Mr. Limlingan so that Mr. Limlingan will attend to it,” said Mercado.
But Mercado said he expects Binay to deny that the Tagaytay does not belong to him and that Limlingan owns it.
Mercado said Limlingan bought a manager’s check from the Philippine National Bank with 8514 Kaong St. San Antonio Village, Makati as his address. The check was to be paid to Henry Sy Jr., whose family became majority owners of Belle Corp. in 2010.
He said the address in the manager’s check is the known residence of the vice president.
The other documents shown by Mercado were billing statements and receipts from the Tagaytay Highlands International Golf Club. He said the billing statements and receipts bore the signatures of no less than Binay’s wife, Elenita, and his daughter, Sen. Nancy Binay.
“These prove that the Binay family indeed owns the Tagaytay property. ‘The signatory there was Dra. Elenita Binay, wife of Mayor Jejomar Binay, who is now Vice President of our country. The billings and the receipts come one after the other,’ and were addressed to Binay’s residence at 8514 Kaong Street in San Antonio Village, Makati City,” pointed out Mercado.
Aside from the Tagaytay property and membership to its golf club, Mercado said Binay also has shares in the Makati Sports Club and Manila Polo Club. He said these were not declared in the vice-president’s SALN as well.
He recalled that in one instance, Binay allegedly wrote a note in one of the billing statements for the Makati Sports Club, which read ‘’Bakit may utang tayo? Please find time and go to Makati Sports Club.”
The note was addressed to Ebeng, the nickname of Binay’s alleged former executive assistant, Eduviges Baloloy.
At the resumption of the hearing, Trillanes also accused Binay’s camp of paying another possible witness, Nestor Irasga P10 million to prevent him from appearing in the Senate.
Trillanes made the expose after Mercado told the subcommittee that he was offered money to stop him from testifying in the Senate.
Mercado said that after he first appeared and testified before the committee, he was approached by their common friends who asked him to stop talking against the Vice President. He refused to reveal the identities of the said “common friends” and requested that they remain identified.
“I have spoken in four hearings. The ante has been raised. My testimony has become worthless and that what matters is how it will cost in exchange for my silence. My response to my common friends with VP Binay is that I have no price. I don’t need money,” Mercado said.
At this point, Trillanes said he can attest to the offer of money because Irasga who was listed as one of the witnesses against the Vice President backed out because he was allegedly paid P10 million each time he was invited to the hearing and rejected it.
The Blue Ribbon committee, meanwhile, will conduct an ocular inspection on the said Binay property in Tagaytay today.
As this developed, Binay’s spokesman Gov. Jonvic Remulla said Mercado has continued to “make malicious and baseless charges.”
He said that a billing statement is not proof of ownership as claimed by Mr. Mercado especially when the authenticity of the signatures can be disputed. Until now Mr. Mercado cannot provide documents proving actual ownership nd the company mentioned has already denied having any records of ownership.
Meanwhile, Local Government’s Secretary Mar Roxas described Binay’s accusations that he is behind the demolition job against the Vice President as ‘panis’ or rotten food.
Roxas also denied he had something to with an Oplan dubbed as Stop Nognog in 2016, saying that nobody can influence senators investigating Binay’s alleged corruption in the construction of the alleged overpriced Makati Parking building.
“Panis, Panis,” Roxas said. I would to like to clarify that I was not involved on the said plan that Binay is fanning out,” Roxas said.
Roxas said that instead of pointing fingers to those who are behind the plan against him, Binay should face his accusers in the Senate.
The Vice Presideht has been accused of pocketing millions of pesos in kickbacks out of the alleged overpriced construction of the Makati building, the 350-hectares ranch he allegedly owns in Rosario, Batangas and other projects since he served as Makati Mayor in 1987.
Binay has refused to appear before the Senate subcommittee, saying that the senators had already prejudged him.
But Roxas said, “such accusations would not help him, I think instead of finger-pointing whose behind it, he (Binay) must face the investigation.”
Binay’s camp had accused of providing the chopper owned by a certain Zamora that was used in the aerial survey of the alleged Binay ranch few weeks back. His staffers were allegedly in that chopper during the aerial sorty.
But Roxas denied this, saying that no one from his office was on board the chopper and he doesn’t know who owned the chopper.
He even advised the media to instead “ask Zamora who rented it.”
In a related development, President Benigno Aquino III accused Binay’s camp of lying on what really transpired during their more than two-hour one-on-one meeting at Bahay Pangarap Tuesday last week.
Aquino disputed the version of Remulla, who had said that it was the president who offered to help the Vice President amid the Senate subcommittee hearing on the allegedly overpriced Makati City Hall car park building II.
The President said it was Binay who initiated the meeting that ended past midnight.
“The person (Remulla) who did what, I guess, with all due respect to the person, I think he had it reversed. He had it in reverse,” he said during an open forum with members of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines.
“There’s no record (of the meeting because) there were only two of us talking. (Binay) stated the fact that Dra. (Elenita) Binay was hurting from all of this. I didn’t ask about the family. He volunteered the information,” the President said.
Remulla earlier said Binay only mentioned the Senate probe after Aquino made the offer to help.
But the president said he recalls that it was Binay who categorically asked him if it was possible to put a stop to the Senate probe, to which Aquino said he will call up Senate President Franklin Drilon.
“He was saying, is it possible for the Senate to terminate their inquiry in aid of legislation given the fact that the proper forum would be the Ombudsman’s office? And I said, we’ll inquire from the Senate President,” Aquino said.
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