‘Binay dummies run realty, security firms’ | Inquirer News

‘Binay dummies run realty, security firms’

New witness says VP owns P1B Makati property
/ 04:30 AM September 26, 2014
PUBLIC PROPERTY THAT REPORTEDLY BECAME BINAY’S  An 8,877-square-meter property on J.P. Rizal Extension and Sampaguita Street in Makati City, now worth about P1 billion, is owned by Vice President Jejomar Binay, according to his former Makati Vice Mayor Ernesto Mercado. The property (inset) is now occupied by commercial buildings and a Mormon church. GRIG C. MONTEGRANDE AND GOOGLE EARTH SCREENSHOT

PUBLIC PROPERTY THAT REPORTEDLY BECAME BINAY’S An 8,877-square-meter property on J.P. Rizal Extension and Sampaguita Street in Makati City, now worth about P1 billion, is owned by Vice President Jejomar Binay, according to his former Makati Vice Mayor Ernesto Mercado. The property (inset) is now occupied by commercial buildings and a Mormon church. GRIG C. MONTEGRANDE AND GOOGLE EARTH SCREENSHOT

MANILA, Philippines–A businessman told Senate investigators on Thursday that he served as a dummy for Vice President Jejomar Binay in a security and janitorial services company that won contracts with the Makati government when Binay was the city’s mayor.

Jose Orillaza, former president of Omni Security Investigation and General Services, told the senators that Binay sent his longtime aide Gerardo “Gerry” Limlingan to work at the company, though Binay’s and Limlingan’s names did not appear in the company’s incorporation papers.

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Orillaza was not one of the new witnesses scheduled to testify in the hearing called by the Senate blue ribbon subcommittee investigating alleged corruption in the Makati city government during Binay’s term as mayor, but former Vice Mayor Ernesto Mercado, continuing his testimony, pointed to him as one of the dummies who helped Binay conceal his assets.

Mercado also testified that Binay used Limlingan, among other fronts, to hide his assets, which included an 8,877-square-meter lot in Barangay (village) Comembo in Makati the current market value of which he estimated to be more than P1 billion.

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On Wednesday, Binay released copies of his financial disclosures and income tax returns that showed his net worth as of the end of 2013 at P60 million.

On Thursday night, Binay denied he owned the Comembo property.

Binay’s spokesman, Cavite Gov. Jonvic Remulla, said the Vice President had no dummy corporations or investments in other people’s names.

“It is for Mercado to have,” Remulla said.

Orillaza, who served as Omni president from 1999 to 2010, said Limlingan was not an officer of the company, but he knew him as Binay’s “representative.”

He said Limlingan was his cosignatory for checks issued by the company.

When asked by Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III, the subcommittee chair, why he agreed to Limlingan’s participation, Orillaza said he accepted the arrangement because Binay was part of the corporation.

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“He was with us in the corporation … Mayor Binay,” Orillaza said. “It was an internal agreement between us right from the start.”

Modus operandi

Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV asked Orillaza if his statement meant he was admitting he had been Binay’s dummy. Orillaza quickly replied, “Yes, sir.”

“That would confirm the practice or the modus operandi of Vice President Binay,” Trillanes said.

Orillaza said that as Omni president and Binay’s dummy, he received a monthly salary of P50,000 to P70,000.

Asked if he received any share in the company’s earnings or dividends, he said he accepted whatever Limlingan decided to give him.

But in 2010, Orillaza said he was ousted from the company because he was identified with Mercado, with whom Binay had a falling out over political plans.

Mercado claimed Binay turned his back on a promise to support him in the Makati mayoral race that year. Instead, Binay promoted the candidacy of his son, Jejomar Erwin “Junjun” Binay Jr., who won the election.

Orillaza said he accepted parting ways with the company because it would not be able to collect payments from the Makati City government if he refused to leave.

All security and janitorial deals

Mercado said Omni cornered all security and janitorial contracts in Makati.

“It has thousands of employees,” he said.

Mercado said Omni’s new owners, after Orillaza and his other partners were kicked out, were Marguerite Lichnok, Limlingan’s wife, who represented 50 percent of the company’s shares; Hirene Lopez, whose husband was the president of University of Makati and a member of the board of trustees of Pag-Ibig Fund, who had a 20 percent share; and Limlingan’s staff members in his private office—Bernadette Portallano, who represented 20 percent, and Aida Alcantara, who held 10 percent.

He also said Limlingan was the president of JCB Inc., whose name was taken from the initials of the Vice President.

Where’s Limlingan?

The Senate blue ribbon subcommittee is having difficulty finding Limlingan. It has sent a subpoena to Vive Hotel, where Limlingan was reported to be living.

But an officer from the hotel wrote the subcommittee to inform the Senate investigators that the subpoena had been mistakenly received and that Limlingan did not live there.

Mercado alleged that Binay used as his front Erlinda Chong, one of the owners of Meriras Realty and Development Corp., as a front. He said the other owners of Meriras were Limlingan, Lichnok, Imee Chong, Kim Tung Chong, Irene Chong and Kimfer Chong.

As for the Comembo property, Mercado said Binay had told him to convince the Philippine Army’s 525th Engineering Battalion to divide the lot between it and the Makati City government, with half to be developed as a housing project for soldiers and the other half to be developed by the city government.

But he said the Makati government lot was not used for the city’s benefit. Instead, it was allegedly acquired by Erlinda Chong, he said.

Property subdivided

Mercado said the Makati property was divided into four lots, with a 3,730-sqm lot now belonging to the Manila Mission of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The church dealt with Limlingan in buying the lot, he said.

The three other lots, with a combined area of 5,000 sqm, remain under the name of Erlinda Chong, Mercado said.

He said the property was bought for just P100 per sqm.

That, Trillanes said, seemed like a “grand robbery.”

Mercado said he believed Chong was just a front because she never faced the Mormon officials when they were negotiating to buy the lot.

Limlingan dealt with Mormons

It was always Limlingan who talked to the Mormon officials.

Mercado said he attended the meetings between Limlingan and the Mormon officials, explaining to them the transfer of titles.

According to Mercado, Limlingan was Binay’s right-hand man, while Erlinda Chong was the cover for the cakes given to the city’s senior residents earlier claimed to be supplied by the Vice President’s daughter, Sen. Nancy Binay. The senator has denied having anything to do with the cakes.

Erlinda Chong also manages the cafeteria at Makati City Hall and at Ospital ng Makati, Mercado said.

‘Napoles’ of Binay

In his earlier testimony, Mercado alleged that Limlingan was one of the people who received bags of cash in kickbacks for Binay that he delivered for contractors handling infrastructure projects in the city.

Mercado said what he had disclosed to the subcommittee was just part of what he knew and that he disclosed it as a response to the Vice President’s claim that there was no evidence against him that would stand up in court.

Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano said Limlingan was apparently the “Napoles” of the Vice President, a reference to detained businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, the alleged brains behind the P10-billion pork barrel scam.

Mercado also scoffed at the Vice President’s claim that his net worth was only P60 million.

He said P60 million hardly covered the worth of Binay’s antique-filled home, including a huge antique door from India. He showed a clip from a GMA 7 program that featured the house.

He also cited the house of Makati Mayor Binay, which he estimated to be worth at least P50 million, as it has an elevator.

Binays no-shows

Despite being summoned to the hearing, Mayor Binay refused to appear in the Senate and on Thursday questioned the subcommittee’s jurisdictional authority in the Supreme Court.

A lawyer for the mayor tried to stop the hearing, but the subcommittee denied the mayor’s motion and went ahead with the hearing.

The Vice President also declined an invitation to the hearing, going instead to Tondo district in Manila to spend time with the poor on the old garbage dump Smokey Mountain. (Story on Page A1.)

Rigged biddings

Also testifying at yesterday’s hearing, Ernesto Aspillaga, a former head of the Makati city government’s general services division (GSD), claimed that biddings for infrastructure projects under Binay and under his wife, Elenita, who succeeded him, were rigged on their instructions to favor their selected contractors.

Aspillaga’s testimony came after that of his successor Mario Hechanova, who said the bidding for the P2.28-billion Makati City Hall Building II was rigged in favor Hilmarc’s Construction Corp. on orders from the Vice President when he was the mayor of Makati.

Hechanova said the bids and awards committee (BAC) prepared the documents for Hilmarc’s’ supposed rivals, the identities of which were provided by Hilmarc’s.

Predetermined winner

Hechanova’s testimony was also supported by Alejandro Tengco, chief operating officer of JBros Construction Corp., who told Thursday’s hearing that contrary to the records, JBros never bid for Makati City Hall Building II, which is a parking building.

Aspillaga said he started working for the city as a draftsman in 1972 and also served as city councilor from 2004 to 2010. As head of the GSD, he was also part of the BAC.

He said the procurement of supplies always had a predetermined winner even before the bidding process began.

“I will admit, that was a [farcical bidding]. Because when the purchase request signed by the mayor reached my office, it had an attached note saying which supplier should win,” Aspillaga said.

He said that was the practice from 1996 to 1998 under Jejomar Binay, from 1998 to 2001 under Elenita Binay, and from 2001 to 2003 under Jejomar Binay again.

Aspillaga said he was sure that the note came from Jejomar Binay because he was familiar with his handwriting.

The same practice also continued when Elenita Binay was the mayor, and he said he was certain the note came from her because he also knew her penmanship.

Trillanes asked if that meant there was no real bidding on Jejomar Binay’s watch.

That’s correct, Aspillaga replied.

He said none of the other BAC members questioned him when he prepared the documents for the procurement.

Trillanes moved that Aspillaga be placed under the government’s Witness Protection Program.

Aspillaga is a coaccused of Elenita Binay in criminal cases in the Sandiganbayan involving alleged overpricing, rigged bidding and malversation in Makati City, filed several years ago.

Aspillaga said he worked for Jejomar Binay since 1986. They traveled abroad together and, like Binay, he was also a member of the Boy Scouts of the Philippines.

No business with Makati

Tengco testified that from the time JBros was establishment in 1999, it never submitted a bid for or purchased any bidding documents for any infrastructure project of the Makati city government.

His information was contrary to official records showing that JBros was one of the three bidders for phase I of the parking building project. The two others were Hilmarc’s’ and ITP Construction Inc. A representative of ITP earlier said the company participated in the bidding.

Tengco said he was surprised when he read in the Inquirer that his company was one of the losing bidders. He said he never authorized anybody to represent JBros in any public bidding for a Makati infrastructure project.

Besides, at the time the parking building was bid out, JBros was not qualified to participate because it had not yet completed any project that was worth at least 50 percent of the approved budget for the contract as required under the procurement law.

Tengco also studied the documents submitted to the Senate blue ribbon subcommittee and he denied that he had signed the papers.

The papers were the letter of intent to join the bidding, the certification of bidder’s responsibilities, an affidavit saying none of the JBros officers was related to Makati city officials, and a certification that JBros was compliant with labor rules and regulations.

Pimentel told Tengco that JBros was also supposedly a bidder for Makati Science High School. Tengco said that was news to him because his company did not participate in the bidding for the project.

Hilmarc’s picked rivals

In his testimony, Hechanova said he prepared the documents for Hilmarc’s’ supposed rivals for the parking building project.

He said it was Hilmarc’s that picked its rivals, and the procurement officials would prepare the bidding documents of those rivals.

The procurement officials would then give the documents to Hilmarc’s and the company would have the papers signed by its supposed rivals. Hilmarc’s would then return the documents to the procurement officials, who would then seal the papers.

Rogelio Peig, Hilmarc’s’ assistant vice president for legal affairs, said Hilmarc’s’ bid for the parking building project was in accordance with the law, and it got the contract because it was the lowest bidder.

Secrecy waiver

Cayetano dared Binay to waive the secrecy of his bank accounts if it was true that he was willing to submit himself to a lifestyle check.

Cayetano said he would do the same, noting that the waiver he made during the impeachment trial of former Chief Justice Renato Corona in 2012 was still valid.–With a report from Christine O. Avendaño

 

Originally posted at 1:39 am | Friday, September 26, 2014

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TAGS: Abby Binay, dummies, Gerardo “Gerry” Limlingan, Graft and Corruption, Jejomar Binay, Jose Orillaza, Makati parking building, Senate probe
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