Miriam urges DAR to check on 'Hacienda Binay'
MANILA, Philippines – Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago on Monday, November 10, filed a resolution calling on the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to “properly assess” a property in Rosario, Batangas, tagged “Hacienda Binay.”
“If it falls under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law, it should be immediately acquired and distributed to farmer beneficiaries; and in any event, to submit a report to the Senate no later than the last working day of December 2014,” read Santiago’s resolution, copies of which were sent to media.
DAR Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes, meanwhile, in a Monday interview on ABS-CBN said his department had begun investigating the controversial property.
The 350-hectare estate, allegedly owned by Vice President Jejomar Binay but are under other people's names, has been one of the topics tackled during a months-long Senate blue ribbon subcommittee probe into corruption allegations against Binay. (READ: Snubs and secrets: A guide to the Nov 6 Binay probe)
The property, according to senators spearheading the probe, is proof that Binay illegally acquired wealth during his stint as Makati mayor. (PHOTOS: Binay and wife tour guests in 'Hacienda Binay')
A businessman, Antonio Tiu, has claimed however that 145 hectares of the said property are his. He refers that area as “Sunchamp Agri-Tourism Farm.” Senator Antonio Trillanes IV accused Tiu, his erstwhile friend, of being Binay’s dummy, a charge the businessman denies.
“Whether consisting of 145 or 350 hectares, [the Rosario, Batangas, property] should be properly assessed by the Department of Agrarian Reform,” noted Santiago in the resolution. The senator was once DAR chief herself.
Most, if not all, of the land parcels within the property are under the names of Binay's friends or former aides. (READ: 'Hacienda Binay' under VP's friends, aides' names)
In a previous press conference, Santiago pointed out that agrarian laws were being violated since only 87 hectares of land in the town of Rosario has been approved for conversion – far less than the 145 or 350 hectares the “hacienda” supposedly covers.
“Whether the hacienda is 145 or 350 hectares, it is in violation of the agrarian reform law, which limits land ownership to only five hectares; it indicates that the alleged hacienda is based on agricultural land without DAR approval,” Santiago said.
The senator pointed out that the “legality of the existence of an hacienda…is deeply suspicious, and may have involved the crimes of falsification of public documents, and of illegal conversion of agricultural land.”
Tiu, who says he purchased the 145-hectare property from Laureano Gregorio Jr, has only paid P11 million out of the property’s P446 million worth. Tiu has none of the property’s land titles, only tax declarations and a one-page document between himself and Gregorio that was not notarized.
Santiago’s resolution also wants to probe officials within the DAR or other officials “responsible for what appears to be the conversion of the classification of the land from agricultural to commercial.”
Rappler has reached out to Tiu for his comment. – Bea Cupin/Rappler.com