Delfin Lee accuses Binay of extort try
MANILA, Philippines–Detained real estate developer Delfin Lee on Monday claimed that Vice President Jejomar Binay, chair of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC), was behind an attempt to extort P200 million from him in exchange for not pursuing a case against the businessman.
Lee, who is facing nonbailable syndicated estafa charges, executed an affidavit in which he also alleged that he was asked to make false claims against former HUDCC Chair and Vice President Noli de Castro but that he refused to do so.
Lee’s lawyer Willie Rivera read the businessman’s affidavit as well as his separate statement at the resumption Monday of the blue ribbon subcommittee’s hearing on alleged anomalies involving Binay. Lee was not allowed to attend the hearing by a Pampanga Regional Trial Court.
His refusal to give in to these demands led to the filing of the case against him, Lee contended, with the Pag-Ibig Fund (Home Development Mutual Fund) supposedly making it appear that his Globe Asiatique Realty Holdings Corp. owed it P6.5 billion, when the company did not.
He further alleged that Pag-Ibig members availing themselves of its housing loan programs were being overcharged P5,000. They were asked to pay P8,000 as insurance premium for the mortgage redemption insurance and fire insurance, but similar insurance from private firms only cost P3,000, he contended.
But Pag-Ibig Fund president Darlene Berberabe countered that the case against Lee was not just a Pag-Ibig operation, and was in fact the product of investigations by the National Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice.
The Office of the President also upheld the ruling revoking Globe Asiatique’s license to sell, she pointed out.
“This is a case of the republic against Delfin Lee,” she said.
Lee, in a separate statement also read by Rivera, said he was “emboldened” to come forward with the truth because it was only recently that there have been those who took the cudgels for the people to reveal the “corrupt practices of this very powerful political figure.”
Binay finance officer
According to Lee, Binay’s close associate Gerry Limlingan met with him twice to make the demand. He believes that Binay was behind this move.
“I and Gerry Limlingan, who is known to be close to Vice President Jejomar Binay, met twice in a Makati building, where Limlingan asked for P200 million in exchange for not continuing the case against me,” he said in the affidavit.
Earlier testimonies at the Senate alleged that Limlingan was Binay’s finance officer who was involved in his supposed receipt of kickbacks as Makati mayor.
Lee provided no other details of his meeting with Limlingan.
Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III, chair of the blue ribbon subcommittee, also noted the paucity of specifics, such as when the meeting took place.
Pimentel said he would want to hear Lee’s own testimony as the San Fernando Regional Trial Court order had not blocked Lee’s Senate appearance with finality, but only stopped his April 13 testimony.
Asked for details, Rivera shared Lee’s narration that the alleged extortion attempt took place after Binay became Vice President.
“Before he was charged, he met with Limlingan in a Makati office and that was where he was asked for P200 million. He was also told that there would be attempts to file charges against Vice President Noli de Castro,” he said.
Lee was also told that if the President was able to send a (former) president to jail, then a Vice President should be able to jail a (former) vice president as well, the lawyer added.
He said it was clear to Lee that Limlingan was speaking for Binay.
Rivera said he was also able to speak with someone close to the Vice President, who he said was a “friend of a friend.”
The lawyer identified this Binay friend, whom he met in Clark over lunch, only as “Tommy.”
Rivera recalled that he told “Tommy” that he should know there was no syndicated estafa in the case of Lee.
“His reply to me was, ‘I know there is none, but that is free propaganda. Why would we not ride on it?’” he said, quoting Tommy.
Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV asked Rivera what Binay’s beef with Lee could be.
No campaign contribution
Rivera said Lee suspected it could be because he declined to give campaign contributions to the vice-presidential campaign of Binay.
He said someone from the Binay camp had approached Lee to solicit contributions and Lee “jokingly” wondered why he would contribute to Binay’s campaign when the latter was lagging in surveys.
“Maybe the one doing the fund sourcing took it badly,” he added.
Lee, in his statement read by Rivera, also disputed the charges against him.
His Globe Asiatique has been accused of using non-existent borrowers to obtain loans from the Pag-Ibig Fund.
Lee said he was a legitimate businessman who had donated churches, schools and buildings, with an aggregate value of more than P500 million. He said he had no reason to defraud 28 complainants of the Pag-Ibig Fund whose claims amount to less than P18 million.
As for allegations he owed Pag-Ibig P6.5 billion, he said there was no civil case for the collection of the amount filed against him.
He also washed his hands of the alleged ghost buyers, passing them off as the responsibility of Pag-Ibig since it was the agency that approved the loans. He also denied there had been double sales of his housing units.
According to him, he did not defraud Pag-Ibig of P6.5 billion because this was fully collateralized by P9 billion worth of properties.
Trillanes wondered why, if the P6.5 billion was not Lee’s debt to Pag-Ibig Fund, he was charged with syndicated estafa and deprived of liberty. He also pointed out that the complainants against Lee still have their homes.
Berberabe explained that the P6.5 billion, which was actually P7 billion, was the amount that Pag-Ibig had released to more than 9,000 borrowers who obtained houses from Globe Asiatique.
According to her, there was a memorandum of agreement between Pag-Ibig and Globe Asiatique where the latter would endorse real borrowers to the housing agency. There was also a representation that there is a real borrower with a capacity to pay. Pag-Ibig would then undertake post validation of the borrower.
But an investigation revealed that more than half of the 9,951 borrowers were bogus and the other portion included “special buyers,” or those who supposedly received payment in exchange for signing a loan application that they did not intend to fulfill.
Berberabe said there was commission of fraud because there was misrepresentation that there were actual buyers when there were none.
Trillanes then said that if there were questionable borrowers, the developer could replace them.
“For as long as payments are being remitted to you, it should not be your problem,” he said.
But Berberabe said that in any contract between two parties, the first premise should be good faith and parties should fulfill their obligations. If fraud was committed, the contract could be rescinded, she said.
“That’s what Pag-Ibig is saying. You employed fraud, based on our audit,” she said.
Rivera said that if the first buyer stopped payment on the house, the developer had three remedies: It could resort to the buyback option, replace the buyer or offset the payments.
Globe Asiatique had sent notice of replacement, but when Binay became housing czar, he refused the replacement and goaded other borrowers to file charges against the developer, said Rivera.
Berberabe said Pag-Ibig’s target was not just to release money for the house, but wanted real borrowers who would continually pay during the loan period, which could last 30 years. It did not want a situation in which the buyer would default after two years and the agency would be left with the collateral.
Rivera, upon the questioning of Trillanes, insisted that Globe Asiatique had not defaulted on payments. It was Pag-Ibig that did not want to accept these, he said.
In a statement, Trillanes said the allegations against Binay showed that the latter would steal from all kinds of people.
“These new allegations show that in the eyes of Vice President Binay, all Filipinos are equal and he does not discriminate; whether you are rich or poor, he will not hesitate to steal from you,” he said.
He also claimed that Binay had been involved in alleged irregularities in all the offices he joined.
“The VP does not spare anyone. Everywhere he goes, he gets a cut,” he said.
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