MANILA, Philippines – On paper and official documents, 58-year-old Erlinda S. Chong is the registered owner of the parcel of land in Barangay Comembo that used to be part of a military reservation area.
While she was not a qualified beneficiary when government decided to distribute land to military personnel and their dependents, she was able to acquire a prime lot totalling 8,877 square meters that is now a profitable commercial complex.
Former Makati vice mayor Ernesto Mercado, the Binay family’s worst nightmare, said Chong was merely a dummy of the Vice President for the property, a scheme that Binay employed to hide his other real estate assets, particularly the 145-hectare Hacienda Binay in Batangas.
Now valued at P1 billion, Chong supposedly bought the Comembo property for a measly amount of P17 million after Meriras Realty, which was put up by Mercado and former Makati City engineer Nelson Irasga, transferred lease rights to her. Mercado said since the land cannot be titled under a company, Chong was the perfect dummy for the land grab.
Chong and her husband, Chinese national Man Bun Chong, are known to the Binay family. Senator Nancy Binay described the couple as friends and not as dummies. “I pity these people because on their own they worked hard for what they have now but they’re being made out to be dummies.”
Chong’s name was slowly dragged in the allegations of hidden wealth by the Binays, starting with the alleged overpriced cakes that the Makati city government provides to senior citizens.
Later, it was revealed that it was the Chongs who were behind Cups & Mugs Kitchenette, the favored cake supplier and that the couple also operates the canteens at the Makati City Hall and Ospital ng Makati.
Last December 2014, the Bureau of Internal Revenue filed a tax evasion case against Cups & Mugs for failing to declare correct income from 2009 to 2011.
This is not the Chongs’ first brush with tax authorities.
In 2011, a retail establishment owned by Erlinda Chong and her daughter, Malison Inc, was slapped with criminal charges by the BIR “for wilful failure to pay its long overdue 2006 deficiency tax assessments, despite repeated demands by the bureau.” The firm was assessed as having a P2.5-million tax deficiency.
Based on available documents, Chong is a native of Sorsogon province. Her father, Kee Co Sy, is a Chinese national, while her mother Lydia Belando, is a Filipina.
Disclosures with the Securities and Exchange Commission showed that as of 2014, the Chongs and their children are now the controlling shareholders of Meriras Realty, relegating another couple Gerardo Limlimgan and wife Marguerite Lichnok, also allegedly Binay fronts, as minority shareholders in the realty company. – Rappler.com
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