MANILA, Philippines – There will be one less person to grill on Thursday, November 6, when the Senate Blue Ribbon subcommittee resumes its probe into allegations of corruption against Vice President Jejomar Binay.
Businessman Antonio Tiu, allegedly one of Binay’s many dummies, will be skipping the November 6 hearing despite receiving a subpoena from the Senate.
“I already filed my answers with the Senate so I will not attend,” Tiu told Rappler in a text message on Wednesday, November 5.
A few hours before he received his 3rd subpoena from the Senate, Tiu in a press conference accused the 3 senators leading the probe of acting as “complainant, prosecutor, and judge” during hearings.
Tiu, a 39-year-old billionaire, has been dragged into one of the biggest corruption scandals to hit Binay.
The Vice President is accused of amassing ill-gotten wealth during his stint as Makati mayor by rigging bids and getting kickbacks from city projects. He allegedly hid this wealth by owning businesses and properties through dummies.
The subcommittee was convened to investigate an allegedly overpriced Makati building constructed during the mayoral terms of Binay and his son, incumbent Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay Jr.
Over a course of two months, however, the probe has turned into a venue for Binay’s former allies and political foes alike to unleash one exposé after another.
Tiu, through his company Sunchamp Real Estate and Development Corporation, allegedly acts as a front for Binay as owner of a vast estate in Rosario, Batangas.
The 350-hectare property, dubbed by former Makati vice mayor Ernesto Mercado as “Hacienda Binay,” is allegedly why the building was overpriced by over P1 billion.
Binay and Tiu have denied the accusations, with Tiu claiming he owns 145 hectares of the Rosario property and that his purchase was above-board.
The November 6 hearing will be convened by the Senate Blue Ribbon “mother committee” which has invited Binay himself to explain the accusations against him.
Should Binay fail to show up, the subcommittee will resume its own hearing that will touch on another allegedly overpriced Makati building, the Makati Science High school.
Is Tiu lying?
In a press conference held the day before the hearing, the normally stoic Tiu teared up as he berated Senator Alan Pater Cayetano for dragging his family into the issue and for taking kidnapping lightly.
Tiu also claimed government agencies are after his businesses because of his refusal to “cooperate” in the probe.
The businessman faced the Senate panel twice, subjecting himself to over 6 hours of intense grilling by Cayetano and Senators Aquilino Pimentel III and Antonio Trillanes IV.
Although he has repeatedly insisted his acquisition of the Rosario property was a good business deal, he has yet to produce convincing proof of his ownership.
Tiu does not have the land titles to the estate but has tax declarations covering several properties, as well as a one-page, unnotarized Memorandum of Agreement between himself and Laureano Gregorio Jr.
The senators remain unconvinced, calling Tiu a liar during hearings. – Rappler.com