HIGH-END realty developer Alphaland Corporation threatened to sue former Makati vice mayor Ernesto Mercado for claiming that the company gave kick-backs for one of its projects and revealed that Mercado was the one who asked for “benefits” from the deal.
Alphaland Corp. president Mario Oreta said they will file a P100-million libel suit against Mercado after he claimed in a Senate hearing that the company gave Vice President Jejomar Binay a P200 million kickback for a one-hectare property along Ayala Avenue in Makati.
“We confirm that there was a deal between Alphaland and Boy Scouts in connection with that one-hectare prime property in Makati City (located at Malugay Street corner Ayala Avenue Extension) but that deal was entirely above board,” Oreta said.
“Alphaland categorically, and in the strongest possible terms, denies these baseless and false allegations of Mr. Mercado,” Oreta said.
There was no ‘kickback’ paid to any government official in connection with the Alphaland-Boy Scouts project,” he stressed.
Oreta released a copy of a letter they sent to Mercado where he revealed that Mercado who made “less than subtle hints” that he was entitled to some “benefits” for having pursued the deal in his capacity then as BSP senior vice president.
“Just before Christmas, you telephoned me regarding your intention to include Alphaland Corporation as part of the Senate investigation against Vice President,” Oreta said in the letter.
“It was you yourself who negotiated the entire deal with me as ‘senior vice president and head of asset management committee and in fact, the contract between Alphaland and the Boy Scouts was signed by you in this capacity and not Vice President Binay,” the executive said.
“I am sure you will remember that you made less than subtle hints that some ‘benefits’ were due to you for agreeing to conclude this project, and I am sure that you will also remember what I explained to you that Alphaland was a joint venture company with the Ashmore Group, and that every transaction was closely scrutinized by Ashmore,” Oreta said.
“Thus, it was impossible for Alphaland to agree to give you any such ‘benefits’,” he said.
“The project which is now close to completion (third quarter of this year), would have a market value of over P21 billion,” the company president said.
“Thus, the original contribution of the Boy Scouts for its 15% of the project would be worth more than P3 billion or more than five times its original investment value thus, making it undoubtedly one of the best and most successful investments that the Boy Scouts ever made,” Oreta said.
Oreta explained that before entering into the transaction with the BSP 2008, there was an appraisal by an independent appraisal company, which valued the property at P1 billion.
But tire company Sime Darby, which owned 40% of the property, had their own appraisal made, and it was on this basis that Sime Darby readily agreed to sell the 40% ownership to Alphaland for P400 million.
Oreta said when the Boy Scouts contributed its 60% ownership to the project, it was valued on the same basis as the appraisal and P600-million selling price of Sime Darby thus earning it a fully carried interest of 15% of the P4-billion project which was to be paid by Alphaland.
Oreta asked Mercado “how can you criticize this transaction which you personally negotiated with me and which is undoubtedly one of the best and successful investments ever made by the Boy Scouts/”
Oreta released a copy of the letter after Mercado testified at the continuation of the Blue Ribbon subcommittee hearing that Binay, a long-time president of the BSP, took 5% of the BSP deal with Alphaland to bankroll his 2010 election campaign.
But Oreta’s revelation, said Binay spokesman Rico Paolo Quicho, only exposes “the farcical nature of the Senate investigation by political detractors” of Binay.
“It is clear that they are trying to fool the people because the very person who asked for a kickback is the one being used as a witness against Vice President Binay,” said lawyer Quicho, who is also Binay’s spokesperson for political affairs.
“Vice Mayor Mercado is now trying to pin all his wrongdoings on Vice President Binay. But the president of Alphaland himself said the project is above-board and they did not give any brine and it was Mercado who asked for a kick-back,” Quicho said.
Quicho stressed that Binay did not sign a single document in connection with the Alphaland deal and there was a BSP board resolution authorizing Mercado to negotiate with Alphaland.
“So it is very unfair to say that Vice President Jejomar Binay was behind this [supposed anomaly],” said Quicho, noting that the only evidence offered to the subcommittee was Mercado’s say-so.
Meanwhile, the Vice President’s son, Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin “Junjun” Binay and six other Makati City Hall officials failed to appear in the Blue Ribbon subcommittee hearing, reasserting their argument that they should be given an advance copy of questions that will be asked in the hearing.
Aside from Binay, those who were no-show in the resumption of the hearing were Atty. Eleno Mendoza, City Administrator and Chairman of Makati Bids and Awards Committee; Engr. Line dela Pena, DPWH; Marjorie De Veyra, former City Administrator, Ebeng Baloloy; Prof. Tomas Lopez, University of Makati President and Bernadette Portollano.
The Senate Blue Ribbon subcommittee, chaired by Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel, had recommended to its mother committee, led by Senator Teofisto Guingona, that Junjun and the city hall officials be held in contempt for their refusal to attend the hearing.
Pimentel said the contempt charge was included in the agenda during the Blue Ribbon Committee meeting on Monday.
Once Guingonga approves the panel’s recommendation, Pimentel said the Senate sergeant-at-arms will be directed to arrest all of them and hold them at the Senate detention facility until they testify in the next subcommittee hearing, which is yet to be scheduled.
It was Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV who asked the subcommittee to inquire into the deals entered by Binay as BSP president.
Of the 59 witnesses and resource persons invited to resumption of the hearing, only 12 attended, including Mercado, Pag-IBIG president Darlene Marie Berberabe, and engineer Ariel Olivar.
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