Chong siblings confirm links to Binay’s ‘dummy firms’
The Chong family is engaged in legitimate business but could not say no to demands that its members act as dummies for Vice President Jejomar Binay, according to former Makati Vice Mayor Ernesto Mercado.
Siblings Kimsfer and Imee Chong showed up at the Senate on Thursday and promised to cooperate in future hearings of its blue ribbon subcommittee.
They were not questioned extensively as the issues involving them were not tackled, but they confirmed links to companies that were allegedly used by Binay and set up by his financial adviser, Gerardo Limlingan.
Two other Chongs, Kim Tun and Irene, were absent at the hearing despite earlier signing a pledge to show up. They were rushed to the hospital on Wednesday where they remain confined, Kimsfer said.
The family matriarch, Erlinda Chong, was undergoing treatment in Hong Kong, and was joined there by daughter Irish. Her children earlier said they would show up at the Senate upon their return to the country.
The Chongs were among those cited for contempt for failing to attend earlier subcommittee hearings, but their arrest orders were suspended after they promised to show up at the next hearing.
According to Mercado, the Chongs had their own business ventures but were dragged into the schemes arranged by Limlingan to hide Binay’s assets.
Legit business ventures
“The Chong family—and this is not because the children are in front of me—are legitimate business persons. It just so happened that they are being used. They became friends with VP Binay, and of course, they could not say no to what Gerry Limlingan wants them to do,” Mercado said.
According to Mercado, Meriras Realty and Development Corp., where the Chongs are officers, was used to hide Binay’s ownership of an 8,877-square-meter lot at Barangay (village) Comembo in Makati. Kimsfer is now the president of Meriras.
Mercado alleged that Meriras and Erlinda Chong were involved in eventually transferring the public property, which was supposed to be developed by the city government, to private hands.
Founded by Binay
He also confirmed knowledge of Cups and Mugs and Millennium Food Chains Corp. Cups and Mugs was the supplier of birthday cakes that Makati gave to senior citizens, and was allegedly a front for Sen. Nancy Binay, supposedly the real supplier, which she has denied.
Millennium was reportedly founded by the Binay siblings—the senator, Makati Rep. Abigail Binay, and Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay, along with Erlinda and Kim Chong, Lilia Chavez and Angelico Salud.
Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III, the subcommittee chair, told the Chongs to research on these topics as they would be questioned about this in the next hearing.
The Chongs will cooperate as long as their constitutional rights are not impaired, said their lawyer, Andresito Fornier.
Also appearing at the Senate on Thursday following their contempt citation were businessman Antonio Tiu and Makati City officials Danilo Villas, Vissia Marie Aldon, Mario Badillo and Line de la Peña.
Tiu said he had not submitted some of the documents asked of him because he had pending cases. He invoked his right against self-incrimination and said he did not think the Senate was the proper forum to present these evidence.
Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano said Tiu was wrong and that there was a difference between actions of the courts and the Senate. While Tiu can invoke his right against self-incrimination, he could not ignore subpoenas or refuse to attend hearings, Cayetano said.
Tiu was involved in the Binay issues after he claimed ownership of the vast Batangas estate alleged to belong to the Vice President. Tiu has denied being Binay’s dummy.
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