Senate subcommittee turns focus on ‘Hacienda Binay’
MANILA, Philippines—The Senate blue ribbon subcommittee, which has been investigating the allegedly overpriced Makati City parking building, has turned its focus on an enormous Batangas property allegedly owned by Vice President Jejomar Binay and his family.
Former Makati Vice Mayor Ernesto Mercado, an ex-ally of the Vice President, returned to the Senate on Wednesday, showing aerial shots of a 350-hectare property in Rosario, Batangas province.
The subcommittee thus renewed its invitation for Binay to appear in its next hearing and answer allegations that the “kickbacks” from questionable projects like the Makati parking building went to the construction of the so-called Hacienda Binay.
Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, chairman of the subcommittee, said the body would reiterate its invitation to Vice President so he would have a chance to answer all allegations hurled against him. Binay had repeatedly declined the invitation of the panel.
(New Inquirer.net poll: Amid corruption allegations, should Vice President Jejomar Binay appear before the Senate blue ribbon committee?)
Mercado said the hacienda, which he said now costs around P1.2 billion, is six times bigger than the historic Luneta Park in Manila, 10 times larger than the Araneta Center in Quezon City or half as big as the entire city of San Juan which measures 700 hectares.
The property, he said, has a mansion with a resort pool and a 20-house air-conditioned piggery.
“Bakit ho ba air-conditioned ‘yung piggery? Ayaw ho kasi ni Dra. na nakakaamoy ng mabaho at ayaw din hong may langaw na lumilipad-lipad,” Mercado said, referring to Binay’s wife and former Makati Mayor, Dra. Elenita Binay.
(Why is the piggery air-conditioned? Because Dr. Binay does not want to smell foul odors and she does not want to see flies hovering.)
He said the garage of the hacienda can also accommodate 40 cars, and that the family’s staff members have their own quarters.
“Iniisyuhan na ako’y sabungero e si Mayor Junjun e mas maganda ‘yung kanyang fighting cock farm…Hindi nila pwedeng itanggi ‘yan,” said the former vice mayor, referring to incumbent Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay.
(They said that I was addicted to cockfighting when Mayor Junjun maintains a top-tier fighting cock farm. They cannot deny that.)
Binay’s spokesman, Joey Salgado, has already admitted that the Vice President owned a piggery and flower farm under the JBC Farms, which was registered as Agrifortuna at the Securities and Exchange Commission. He said the Vice President divested himself of interest in JBC Farms when he won in 2010.
The Batangas property, Salagado said, was operated by Sunchamp Agri-Tourism Park.
But Mercado insinuated that the current incorporators of Agrifortuna were all just dummies of the Vice President like Gerardo Limlimingan, whom he described as Binay’s “bagman.”
He also noted that one of the incorporators, a certain Mitzi Sedello, lives in Makati Homes on Milkwood Street Barangay Rizal, Makati, one of the housing projects in the city.
“Ibig sabihin, si Ms. Mitzi nakatira sa isang pabahay ng gobyerno sa Makati City. May karapatan po ba itong maging incorporator ng Agrifortuna na may ari ng nasabing pasilidad?” Mercado asked.
(This means that Ms. Mitzi lives in a government’s housing project in Makati City. Can she afford to be an incorporator of Agrifortuna which supposedly owns the facility?)
Mercado also disclosed that the Batangas property was developed by Hilmarc’s Construction Corporation, the same contractor that bagged the contract for the 5-phase Makati City Hall2 parking building.
“Awang-awa ako, Senador, kay Engineer Efren Canlas na may-ari po ng Hilmarc’s. Hindi po s’ya makapagsalita. Umid po ang kanyang dila pero lahat po ng nakikita n’yong development, si Engineer Canlas po ang gumawa,” he told the committee.
(Senator, I pity Engineer Efren Canlas, who (is the chairman) of Hilmarc’s. He cannot talk (about his concerns). He gets tongue-tied but all the developments that you see are made by Engineer Canlas.)
Canlas’ big problem, he said, was every time the contractor’s collection from the hacienda would pile up to P30 million to P50 million, the Vice President’s wife could no longer give him the money.
Morales said Canlas had approached him several times complaining how Mrs. Binay could not pay her obligations.
“May P30 million na utang si Doktora., hindi naman po nagbabayad pero tuly po ang pagawa,” he quoted Canlas and former city engineer Nelson Morales telling him.
(Mrs. Binay has a debt of P30 million. She wouldn’t pay, but we would still continue with our construction.)
Mercado said then he would advise the two to just deduct the money from the 13 percent kickbacks that allegedly went to the Binay family for every project in Makati City.
“Pero ang problema ko po kinabukasan, minumura na ako ng ninang ko. ‘Bakit kulang ang bag…?’ ‘E binayad po namin kay Engineer Canlas e.’ ‘E hindi nga pwedeng bawasan ‘yan kaya gumawa kayo ng paraan kung paano mababayaran si Engineer Canlas’,” he said, recalling his conversation with Mrs. Binay.
(The next day, my godmother would curse me. She would ask, ‘why is there money missing from the bag?’ I would explain that we used it to pay Engineer Canlas. She would retort, ‘You cannot take money from the bag, so find another way to pay Engineer Canlas.’)
Mercado, in an earlier Senate inquiry, claimed that he would deliver bags of money to the Vice President, his family, and allies.
Mercado then surmised that Hilamarc’s was forced to overprice its projects in Makati so they could get their pay for their services rendered for the Hacienda Binay.
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