Binay accuser now charged with plunder over P80M ‘kickbacks’
MANILA, Philippines – The accuser has become an accused.
Former Makati City Vice Mayor Ernesto Mercado, who has accused Vice President Jejomar Binay of corruption, has found himself at the receiving end of a plunder charge.
On Tuesday, a private complainant filed an P80-million plunder charge against him in the Office of the Ombudsman for allegedly receiving kickbacks from government funds.
The sworn complaint filed by civic leader Louis “Barok” Biraogo said Mercado received P80 million in bribes when he was vice mayor for his participation in the construction of Phases 1 and 2 of the Makati City Hall Building II, the subject of a Senate investigation for allegedly being overpriced, and for which Binay has also been investigated by the Senate.
Biraogo said Mercado, a former ally of Binay, himself admitted this at Senate subcommittee hearings where he was a resource person on Aug. 26 and Sept. 11, 2014. Biraogo attached the transcripts of the hearings to his complaint.
Biraogo said he found it unusual that everyone allegedly involved in the anomalous construction of the parking building was accused of criminal acts, except Mercado.
He also questioned Mercado’s “undeserved special treatment” and said it was a “stab in the back” of the justice system.
Biraogo is known for filing public interest cases in the courts. In 2014, he filed criminal charges against Sen. Loren Legarda over her alleged failure to include certain properties in her statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN).
He also filed a complaint against Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima and former National Treasurer Rosalia de Leon for alleged malversation of the Malampaya natural gas fund in the amount of P136 billion.
“My advocacy is for justice and the rule of law to prevail in this country, and here is a situation where the wrongdoer has admitted to committing a crime and nobody seems to be interested enough to file charges against him,” Biraogo said.
Biraogo also questioned Mercado’s vast properties, specifically the 100-hectare Underwater Garden Hotel and Resort in Coron, Palawan; the multimillion-peso Villa Juanita resort also in Coron; the one-hectare Grand Villa Pateros in Barangay (village) Aguho, Pateros; JMK Professional Manpower Solution Inc. in the name of Juanita Mercado and Karla Pascual Mercado; the 200-ha Grand Villa and Butterfly Center in Los Baños, Laguna; the 500-ha Hunter Valley Plantation and Resort in Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija; Nitz Face and Body Care Center in Pateros; Lawndale Finance Co. in Cabanatuan City; St. Therese Multi-Specialty Services Inc. in Makati City; properties in West Rembo, Makati City, and Laur, Nueva Ecija; a poultry farm in Palayan, Nueva Ecija, and others.
“In view of the foregoing, it is glaring that all the elements for the commission of the crime of plunder under Republic Act No. 7080 and forfeiture action under RA 1379 are present,” Biraogo said.
“The only plausible explanation that remains is that all these properties and corporations were funded by public coffers. In other words, it is doubtful how the children and spouse of respondent Mercado, who appear to be owners and stockholders of various Mercado corporations and properties, have the financial capacity to own them,” Biraogo said.
Mercado was a Makati councilor from 1992 to 1998. In 1998, he ran for vice mayor but lost. In 2001, he ran again and won as vice mayor, holding the post for three terms until 2010. In 2010, he ran for mayor against Binay’s son, current Mayor Junjun Binay, but lost.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.