What did Binay tell Church leaders?

Aries C. Rufo

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What did Binay tell Church leaders?
The Vice President's camp says he accepted the invitation of the CBCP for a meeting but a Church source says it was the other way around

MANILA, Philippines – “They coddle lying witnesses….they bully and harass witnesses who say otherwise. They have already prejudged the outcome of the proceedings. They even blatantly abused the Witness Protection Program.”

Ergo, “the Vice President does not wish to dignify that kind of proceeding by attending to it.”

This is what Vice President Jejomar Binay told some Church leaders when he met them at the Archdiocese of Manila last November 4. Both Binay and his Church audience were mum about what transpired in the meeting. (READ: VP Binay meets with CBCP official)

The Vice President’s camp said Binay accepted the invitation of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines for a meeting, but a Church source said it was actually the other way around. “It was Binay who sought the meeting after learning that (former Makati Vice Mayor Ernesto) Mercado met with some bishops.”

In that meeting, Binay submitted a 5-page position paper, entitled “The Truth About the Senate Blue Ribbon Sub-Committee Hearing” where he sought to justify his snub of the Senate invitation for him to appear in the hearing.

The Vice President singled out Senators Alan Peter Cayetano and Antonio Trillanes IV for conducting a political witch hunt “whose purpose is to make wild accusations and false statements.”

So far, he said, they have “merely made insinuations, conjectures and wild statements not supported by a single shred of evidence.”

Binay said the two senators, who are spearheading the Senate Blue Ribbon sub-committee hearing, have dismissed testimonies favorable to him, including evidence that showed there was no overpricing in the controversial Makati City Hall Building 2.

“This only proves that the Senate is not the proper forum to answer the malicious accusations against the Vice President. The inquiry is being conducted to determine the criminal and administrative culpability of the Vice President when, in fact, only the courts can decide on criminal liabilities,” Binay said in his position paper.

Discredited witnesses

Like other self-styled whistleblowers, Mercado met with some bishops to ventilate his gripes against the Vice President. Mercado, a former political ally of the Binays, is the principal witness on corruption allegations against the Binay family.

This apparently prompted Binay to seek an audience with Church higher-ups.

In his position paper, Binay touched on the 350-hectare property in Rosario, Batangas; Commission on Audit Commissioner Heidi Mendoza’s testimony on the alleged overpricing of medical equipment for the Ospital ng Makati during former Mayor Elenita Binay’s time, and the 5-phased P2.28-billion Makati parking building, which had been renamed Makati City Hall Building 2.

On the Batangas property, Binay insisted that he “has never owned the said property” and that he leased only 9 hectares there for his piggery business under JCB Farms. He said he sold his piggery business to Agrifortuna Inc, which is owned by businessman Laureano Gregorio.

The questioned property is now being operated by Sunchamp Real Estate Development Corporation through a Memorandum of Agreement signed by businessman Antonio Tiu and Gregorio in 2013.

Binay also downplayed the testimony of blogger/journalist Raissa Robles where the Vice President supposedly admitted in a 2010 interview that he purchased the Batangas property, saying this had been clarified by his lawyers already.

“The Vice President was referring to the purchase made by Agrifortuna when he and Dr Binay were the majority stockholders. The Vice President divested from Agrifortuna in 1994. He then formed JCB Farms as a single proprietorship, which leased the property from Mr Gregorio,” the position paper said.

On Mendoza, the Vice President reiterated that her testimony “has been already discredited and thrown out by the Sandiganbayan in 2011.” Binay said Mendoza failed to sway the anti-graft court justices with “her poor, sloppy auditing.” (READ: Binay camp: Mendoza’s COA report already ‘discredited)

As for Mercado, Binay said his former ally is a “serial liar,” citing his claim that the piggery was air-conditioned when ocular inspection showed it was not.

Parking building

As for the Senate probe on the alleged anomalous transactions in City Hall, Binay said the chamber’s hearings “have not turned out any proof of overpricing.”

Vouching for the credibility of Hilmarc’s Construction, which built the controversial building, Binay listed other government projects won by Hilmarc’s, including the Iloilo Convention Center, which is also subject to the Senate investigation.

He pointed out that Cayetano and Trillanes refused to accept Hilmarc’s denial that no money exchanged hands.

Binay stressed that the Makati City Hall Building 2 underwent a total of 10 audits by the COA. “It did not find any irregularity or adverse finding.”

But COA chief Grace Pulido-Tan denied that the agency had issued any certification that the building was not overpriced. (READ: COA chief: No clearance for Makati building

Binay maintained that the building was divided into 5 phases because City Hall “cannot afford to set aside almost more than half of its annual budget for the construction of the building.” He said that during the first year of construction, Makati City only had an approved annual budget of P4 billion.

He stressed that the building only cost P2.2 billion as against the estimated cost of P2.46 billion.

But Rappler’s investigation of the documents showed that the total Approved Budget for the Contract amounted to P2.279 billion. “Change orders” in the specification of the contract pushed the total cost of the building to P2.280 billion. (READ: Binay’s Makati building overshoots approved budget)

What Binay did not say

Binay’s meeting with Church higher-ups happened two days before Mercado exposed the Vice President’s alleged hidden foreign bank accounts and dollar deposits abroad on November 6. In last Tuesday’s, November 18 hearing, Mercado revealed at least 6 condominium units that Binay owned using fronts or dummies. (READ: ‘Binay owns 6 condo units in Makati’)

A Church source, who was present during the November 4 meeting, said Binay failed to discuss, or conveniently did not discuss, certain issues that Church leaders would have wanted clarified.

“We wanted him to clarify issues surrounding people who are close to him and those mentioned by Mercado in his Senate testimony. Where’s Gerry Limlingan, Ebeng Baloloy? If Binay does not want to appear in the hearing, these people can debunk the allegations,” the source said.

Limlingan and Baloloy were named by Mercado as Binay’s bagmen for kickbacks. – Rappler.com


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