Senators pressure businessman Antonio Tiu to tell all on links to Binay | Inquirer News
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Senators pressure businessman Antonio Tiu to tell all on links to Binay

By: - Deputy Day Desk Chief / @TJBurgonioINQ
/ 07:14 PM October 09, 2014

MANILA, Philippines—For his own good, he should come clean.

That’s the senators’ advice to Chinese-Filipino businessman Antonio Tiu, who, according to them, should admit that he has been fronting for Vice President Jejomar Binay on the ownership of a 350-hectare property in Batangas province.

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Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV said he had documents to prove that the Binay family owned the property in Rosario town, and that Tiu was really a dummy for the Vice President.

“The best call is to come clean, and admit that he’s fronting for the Vice President,’’ Trillanes said by phone from Davao.

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Trillanes declined to specify what documents he had ahead of the next hearing in the Senate blue ribbon subcommittee inquiry into the allegedly overpriced Makati City Hall Building II.

He said he preferred to listen first to Binay’s or Tiu’s explanation on the real ownership of the Batangas property, which included a mansion, a 40-car garage, a maze garden, two man-made lagoons, a flower farm, an orchard, an air-conditioned piggery and a fighting cock farm.

TIU. Contributed Photo

TIU. Contributed Photo

“Then we will come up with those pieces of evidence to tie them down,’’ he said.

During the hearing on Wednesday, former Makati Vice Mayor Ernesto Mercado presented an aerial video footage and still photos of the property and its luxurious features and said the Binays owned the entire place.

Mercado said he frequented the property when it was just five hectares, running errands for the Binays like delivering feed for the pig farm and the wages of the workers.

Tiu’s name came up during the hearing and he was identified as the owner of the property.

But digging up records, senators showed Tiu’s links to Binay. Tiu supplied hospital beds to the Ospital ng Makati in 2000, and Binay’s lawyer, Martin Subido, is a director in one of Tiu’s companies, according to the senators.

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With the new charges, the subcommittee invited Binay anew to the inquiry, and issued subpoenas for Tiu as well as his financial records.

Binay’s camp maintained that he did not own the property. Subido said Binay leased nine hectares of the property for his piggery and his wife Elenita Binay’s flower farm.

Tiu dismissed as baseless charges that he was a dummy of Binay. He vowed to face the Senate to clarify issues.

Trillanes said that Tiu, chair of AgriNurture Inc. (ANI) and Greenergy Holdings Inc., had everything to gain from being forthright on the hacienda.

“He’s a very successful businessman. But for some reason, perhaps through his connection with Subido, [he got connected to Binay.] But aside from that, he doesn’t need to front for Binay,’’ he said.

Trillanes said Tiu, as a legitimate businessman, was “the perfect cover’’ for Binay.

“Tony Tiu, per se, is a legitimate businessman. But with this particular project—Hacienda Binay, he’s definitely a dummy for Binay. And being a legitimate businessman, that makes him a perfect cover or dummy for Binay,’’ he said.

Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano urged Binay and Tiu not to issue mere denials in the face of evidence that their association was not merely coincidental.

“Is this just a mere coincidence? Mr. Antonio Tiu’s links to the Binay family are very clear. They go way back. How else can the Vice President and his spokesmen explain this?” Cayetano said in a statement.

Trillanes believed that Binay tried to distance himself from the estate by creating layers of companies because he anticipated this would crop in the 2016 presidential campaign.

“For fronting for Binay, Tiu would get additional capital for his other businesses. He has diversified. And once Binay becomes President, he’d get a lot of concessions,’’ he said.

Since Binay sold his interests in the piggery farm to Agrifortuna Inc. in 2010, only his wife’s flower farm remained under lease, said his counsel Subido.

The lessor of the property now is Sunchamp Real Estate Development Corp., operator of Sunchamp Agri-Tourism Park.

Contrary to Mercado’s claims, Subido said the farm was only 145 ha, not 350 ha, and 9 ha of this was leased by Binay starting 1994. Binay’s JCB Farms occupied three hectares.

Binay sold JCB Farms for P10 million to Agrifortuna, which is owned by Laureano Gregorio. The Binay couple had been incorporators of Agrifortuna for a paid-up capital of P50,000 but sold their shares to Gregorio in 1995.

Sunchamp acquired Gregorio’s rights to the property, and this has been disclosed to the Philippine Stock Exchange, Subido said.

Tiu dismissed as baseless charges that he was a dummy of Binay. He vowed to face the Senate to clarify issues.

Tiu chairs Agro-commercial enterprise AgriNurture Inc. (ANI) and holding firm for renewable energy businesses Greenergy Holdings. He said that Sunchamp leases land from several parties, including Agrifortuna Inc., but the contract with Agrifortuna is for less than 10 ha.

Tiu admitted that ANI’s precursor – Mabuhay 2000 Enterprises – imported hospital beds, and supplied the beds to Apollo Medical, which in turn sold the beds to Ospital ng Makati.

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TAGS: Antonio Tiu, Antonio Trillanes IV, Batangas, congressional inquiry, dummy corporation, Hacienda Binay, hidden wealth, Ill-gotten wealth, Jejomar Binay, land estate, legislative inquiry, News, Philippine Congress, Philippine vice president, real estate, Rosario, Senate, Senate blue ribbon committee
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