MANILA (UPDATE) - A former ally of Vice-President Jejomar Binay on Wednesday claimed the Binay family owns a sprawling mansion in Tagaytay as well as a 350-hectare property in Batangas worth an estimated P1.2 billion.
In his testimony before the Senate Blue Ribbon subcommittee, former Makati Vice Mayor Ernesto Mercado said the Binay family allegedly owns a 5,000-square-meter property with three structures in Laurel, Batangas near Tagaytay.
He said that initially, Binay only got 1,000 square meters as "attorney's fee" after winning a case for a certain Ladislaw Diwa of Cavite. The property expanded to 5,000 square meters after the family got more land around the original property.
"Kaya lang malabo na hong mapatituluhan yan dahil ang tunay na may titulo sa kanya diyan ay 1,000 square meters," he said.
Mercado also accused Binay of owning a 350-hectare property spanning four barangays in Rosario, Batangas.
He said this is equivalent to "six Luneta Parks, 10 Araneta Centers or even half the city of San Juan."
He said the estate has 2 mansions, an airconditioned piggery, orchid farm, cockbreeding farm, horse ranch and a man-made lagoon.
Only 150 hectares of the land have been developed.
Mercado said Binay first bought five hectares of land from businessman Delfin Almenda. This led to the founding of Agrifortuna Inc.,which currently owns the 350-hectare property and whose shareholders are allegedly dummies of the vice-president.
He said that as of 2002, the property was only 95 hectares.
The Vice-President earlier declared a net worth of P60,118,766 as of end 2013. His assets amounted to P66,171,663, while his liabilities were P6,052,897.
Binay’s net worth was mainly due to the JCB Farms, a piggery business he started in 1994 in Rosario.
The JCB Farms earned Binay an additional net income of P44,350,921.88 from 1994 to 2010. During the said period, Binay paid taxes amounting to P15,889,581.83.
Binay said he divested of his shares in the company before he ran for vice-president in 2010.
WHAT'S INSIDE PROPERTY
A video presentation of Mercado, meanwhile, detailed the structures inside the 350-hectare property.
Mercado said one portion of the property has a maze garden similar to the Kew Gardens in London. He said he visited the Kew Gardens in 2007 upon the instruction of Dra. Elenita Binay, wife of the Vice-President, because she wanted to copy its design.
He said a rest house beside the Kew Gardens in London is allegedly used by royalty.
He said the maze garden in the alleged Binay property is bigger than the one in London. "Yung kanyang bahay ay hamak na mas malaki sa ginawang pahingahan ng mga prinsesa at reyna sa bansang Inglatera," he said.
Other structures in the property are a mansion with resort pool, a 40-car garage and staff house, an aviary and a man-made lagoon.
Mercado said a horse ranch in the property is maintained by Makati Mayor Junjun Binay, son of the vice-president, Makati Administrator Jun Mendoza and a Makati councilor.
The Makati mayor also allegedly maintains a fighting cock farm with 1,000 cocks in the property.
"Meron pa silang training area. Dun nagpa-practice ang mga manok," Mercado said.
He also claimed that the piggery was airconditioned "because Dra. Binay did not want to smell the pigs and she did not want flies."
HILMARC'S BUILT PROPERTY
In his testimony, Mercado claimed that Hilmarc's Construction Corporation was involved in the construction of the Batangas estate.
Hilmarc's is the same company that built the P2.3 billion Makati City Hall Building 2, which is allegedly overpriced.
Mercado said he felt sorry for Hilmarc's chairman Efren Canlas because the Binays would often rack up multimillion-peso debts when constructing the estate.
"Mabuting tao. Mabait, madaling kausap pero alam ninyo, kahit anong bait at talino mo napapakapit ka sa talim e pag gipit talaga," he said in describing Canlas.
He said that while he was still vice-mayor, Canlas would sometimes tell him that Binay's debt for construction of the Batangas estate had already reached P30 million.
To pay for the debt, he said he instructed Canlas to get the money from the alleged "kickbacks" being given to Mrs. Binay. This is in connection to his earlier claim that 13% of the contract price of all infrastructure projects in Makati went to the Binays.
"Yung dine-deliver ko kay Junjun ay mababawasan para mabayaran si Canlas," he said.
"This is why the buildings are overpriced because add-on yung naaabono diyan," he added.
Mercado also alleged that the current shareholders of Agrifortuna Inc. are dummies of the vice-president. The current incorporators are Gerardo Limlingan, Tomas Lopez, Laureano Gregorio Jr., Mindanila Barlis and Mitzi Sedillo.
BINAY FARM ONLY A LESSEE IN PROPERTY
In a statement, the United Natonalist Alliance, Binay's political party, reiterated the vice president's camp's explanation that JCB Farms was not the owner but a mere lessee of the Batangas property.
Vice presidential legal counsel Atty. Martin Subido said Binay sold his farm in 2010 to Gregorio's Agrifortuna Inc.
"From 1994 to 2010, the Vice President operated a piggery business in Rosario, Batangas. This piggery business was a sole proprietorship duly reported in his SALNs and in his ITRs," Subido said.
"The Vice President did not own any land where his piggery business was operated. Rather, he was a lessee of around nine hectares of land, with the improvements he introduced for the piggery business duly reported as 'Leasehold Improvements.'"
Binay and his wife, Elenita, had been incorporators of Agrifortuna for a paid up capital of P50,000, but sold their shares to Gregorio in 1995, Subido said.
Gregorio supposedly made additional investments in 2008 that gave him 97% ownership of Agrifortuna. Subido said the house, swimming pool and garden are not owned by the vice president.
Subido said Gregorio then entered into a Memorandum of Agreement with Sunchamp Real Estate Development Corporation in 2013 for the acquisition of all the rights of Gregorio over the 145 hectare property, "not 350 hectares as claimed by Mercado."
"This was also duly disclosed to the PSE (Philippine Stock Exchange) and the investing public in October 2013 and July 2014," Subido said.
LIFESTYLE CHECK FOR MERCADO
UNA also called for a lifestyle check on Mercado, saying the latter is not financially capable of hiring a helicopter to take aerial shots of the property since he is supposedly mired in debt.
"What we would like to find out is how Mercado was able to hire a helicopter to hover around the piggery farm when there are reports that he is allegedly deep in debt due to his gambling habits," said Atty. JV Bautista, interim secretary-general of UNA.
Bautista said Mercado is a gambler and is known to lose millions in cockfights.
Bautista said aside from Mercado, the vice-president's other accusers must also undergo lifestyle check.
"Given Mercado’s own admission of illegally benefiting from government projects, we are wondering why the senators conducting the inquiry on the alleged overpricing of Makati City Hall Building 2 have not made any move to freeze Mercado's assets," Bautista said.
"Is it because he is doing their bidding? If the senators want to keep up their supposed impartiality, then perhaps they should rethink their strategy."