MANILA, Philippines – You can hit me, but spare my family.
Those were the sentiments of a teary-eyed businessman Antonio Tiu as he assailed Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano for “endangering” his family – his first-ever public display of emotion since being dragged into one of the country’s most sensational corruption scandals.
“I quietly suffered the insults thrown at me. Lahat ng ito tinganggap ko nang buong pagkukumbaba. Ngunit ang pinakamasakit sa akin ay ito: Hindi na nakontento si Senator Cayetano na maliiitin ang pagkatao to, nilagay pa niya sa panganib ang buhay ko at pamilya ko sa kanyang pagpilit sa akin na isaliwalat ang pera ko sa bangko,” Tiu said in a press conference on Wednesday, November 5.
(I humbly accepted all of the insults. But this is what hurt me the most: Senator Alan Peter Cayetano was not content with undermining me, he also endangered my safety and that of my family’s in insisting that I make my bank accounts public.)
At a Senate hearing on the alleged overpriced Makati parking building on October 30, Cayetano insisted that Tiu open his bank accounts to scrutiny, to prove that his income is legitimate and that he is not laundering money for Binay.
Cayetano had said that he was willing to open his bank accounts to scrutiny as well.
During that hearing, Tiu refused to waive his rights and said revealing his finances would make him and his family vulnerable to kidnappers but Cayetano pointed out that Tiu himself has been telling media that he is worth billions of pesos in cash and stocks. He quipped that Tiu could easily negotiate with kidnappers.
Wiping away tears, Tiu criticized Cayetano’s statements almost a week later. “Tama po ba na sa kagustuhang ipahiya ako, ginawa ninyong katatawanan ang issue ng kidnapping? (Is it right that in your desire to humiliate me, you made light of the issue of kidnapping?)” he said.
“This may be just politics to you but for me and for members of the Filipino Chinese community, kidnapping is a real threat,” Tiu added in a mix of English and Filipino.
After the press conference, Tiu told Rappler that he “did not want to be emotional.” “Hindi lang mapigilan (I couldn’t control myself),” Tiu said in a text message to Rappler.
The 39-year-old businessman is accused of being Vice President Jejomar Binay’s dummy, allegedly using his company Sunchamp Real Estate Development Corporation to own a vast estate in Rosario, Batangas.
Tiu has denied these claims and on Wednesday reiterated: “I am not a dummy, I am not a money launderer. I am not guilty of any crime.”
Over the course of two 6-hour long Senate Blue Ribbon subcommittee hearings, Tiu was grilled about his ownership of what has been tagged as “Hacienda Binay.”
So far, his explanations have failed to convince the 3 senators leading the probe – Cayetano, Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, and Senator Aquilino Pimentel III.
The senators have openly criticized Tiu during hearings, calling him a liar.
The businessman does not have the land titles of the Batangas property, only tax declarations for some parts of the estate and a one-page, un-notarized Memorandum of Agreement between him and the seller, Laureano Gregorio.
Tiu said he has yet to receive a subpoena for the next hearing, scheduled on Thursday, November 6. The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee has invited the Vice President to the Thursday hearing.
Binay has yet to announce if he’s attending the hearing or not.
Aside from possible cases stemming from allegations of being Binay’s dummy, Tiu may also face tax evasion charges over the purchase of the Rosario property, although the Internal Revenue Commissioner Kim Henares clarified that her agency is only “listening” to the proceedings, for now.
Meanwhile, the Department of Agrarian Reform is checking for possible violations of the agrarian reform law while the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) said it is keeping track of disclosures made by Tiu.
Two of Tiu’s companies – Agrinurture Inc and Greenergy Holdings Incorporated – are publicly listed. Sunchamp’s parent company is Greenergy Holdings. – Rappler.com