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‘Our place in Batangas’

If any lingering doubts remained about the ownership of the luxury mansion and grounds in Rosario, Batangas, these should have been banished by the Instagram posted by Joanna Marie Bianca (aka jmblicious) and presented by Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano in the Senate blue ribbon subcommittee’s Thursday hearing. If Jojo Binay denies his youngest child’s posting of pictures showing “our place in Batangas,” he will essentially be calling her a liar in public.

That Binay spokesperson Jonvic Remulla immediately pooh-poohed the pictures with a “nag-videoke ka lang, may-ari ka na” is unworthy of the Cavite governor. But I guess he had to say something.

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That Binay had a microphone in his hand (“it’s karaoke time” was Joanna’s description) was not the point. Where he was singing was what mattered. The background of the four pictures, presumably taken by Joanna using her camera, showed the house and its surroundings, which she described as “our place”—the same house and garden of which the media had taken photos when Sen. Antonio Trillanes visited the place.

That posting represented the coup de grace on Binay’s denials of ownership. Together with all the other pictures of different groups related to the Binays in one way or another (the orchid society, Binay’s UP High School Class ’58, etc.), the boundary stones of the property engraved with “EB” (Elenita Binay), the wrapped vases seen by Raissa Robles in the Binay house in Makati on which were written “Batangas” and “Alfonso,” the posting shows indubitably who owns the property. Add to this what the major TV stations unearthed: people who claimed (on camera) that they had sold their property to Jojo Binay, which form part of “Hacienda Binay.”

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Then there was the testimony of the resource persons at the hearing, which tended to discredit the claims of businessman Anthony Tiu, who has at various times claimed that he was owner, usufructuary, and now lessee, of “Hacienda Binay.”

Agrarian Reform Secretary Gil de los Reyes, who was invited to the Batangas property for the “launching” of Tiu’s agri-tourism venture, recounted that he had asked questions about the large landholding and how such a property could be consolidated without the knowledge of the Department of Agrarian Reform. Tiu’s answer was that he had only leased the property, which of course Cayetano jumped on, because Tiu had earlier claimed ownership before describing himself as the usufructuary. And now the lessee. Will the real Tiu stand up? De los Reyes also said he had ordered the Batangas DAR to look into it.

Then there were Kim Henares and Tess Herbosa, chiefs of the Bureau of Internal Revenue and Securities and Exchange Commission, respectively.

Henares’ contribution at the hearing was to go through the taxes that had to be paid accompanying a land sale (capital gains tax), and who would pay (the buyer should withhold the tax and remit it to the BIR). There were apparent anomalies with respect to the Batangas property, and Cayetano blamed Tiu for not exercising the due diligence required of a corporation listed in the Philippine Stock Exchange. This, Tiu denied.

Herbosa’s contribution to the conversation was that the SEC had examined the financial statements of Tiu’s companies. The Reader will remember that Tiu said he had made two down payments of P5 million and P6 million, but these were not reflected in his firm’s financial statement. (Tiu later clarified that he had paid with a personal check, but he has not presented any evidence of this.) Herbosa said the SEC had some adverse findings, and was in the process of issuing notices of clarificatory conferences to the companies and their auditors.

Then there was Ernesto Mercado, former vice mayor of Makati, who presented documents showing the titles of at least 21 people who owned some 70 hectares of the land in “Hacienda Binay,” including the land where the mansion is located. He said there was no indication on those titles that they had been sold to Laureano Gregorio (the one who was supposed to have bought the piggery from the Binays and, more importantly, claimed to own the 150 hectares which Tiu bought from him). Mercado’s point: If Gregorio didn’t buy it from them, how could he have sold it to Tiu? And how come Tiu didn’t know this, if he had conducted due diligence on the property, as he claimed?

Mercado also brought documents to show that the land area of the Binays had 350 hectares. He brought a map, where he superimposed the 150 hectares that Tiu claims on the 350-hectare property. Plus he also supplied the names of Makati City Hall employees who were brought to the farm to do various jobs.

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Mercado could not resist repeating his challenge: If Binay and his men can show proof that he, Mercado, was in the UERM Memorial Medical Center, and within 30 minutes of his stay was visited by Mar Roxas, he would retract every word of his testimony before the blue ribbon subcommittee.

He seems to be pretty sure of himself, because he also volunteered to have Binay cross-examine him when the Vice President appears before the subcommittee. So that the people may see for themselves who is lying.

And I have not commented on that one-page memorandum of agreement that was not even notarized.

The summary of events as I see them: Binay owns the Rosario property. Tiu’s actions—his failure to do real due diligence, his inconsistencies, his cavalier treatment of the property that he claims he owns/leases/can use exclusively—indicate that he is merely holding the property until Binay wants it again, or is holding the property for Binay to use.

Which means Binay has an awful lot of explaining to do about unexplained wealth.

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TAGS: Batangas property, Get Real, Hacienda Binay, Instagram, Jejomar Binay, Joanna Marie Bianca, opinion, Solita Collas-Monsod, unexplained wealth
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