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Friday, October 31, 2014

Senators Discredit Tiu; Binay Allies Barred From Presenting Mercado's Hospital Records

Businessman Antonio Tiu was placed on the defensive end yesterday when three senators leading the investigation of the Makati City Hall Building II took turns on trying to discredit his claim of ownership of the Sunchamp Agri-Tourism Park in Rosario, Batangas,
First they tried to discredit the one-page memorandum of agreement (MOA) presented by Tiu, which Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, chairman of the Senate Blue Ribbon sub-panel, described as a document not even notarized and submitted to the panel nearly 30-minutes after the hearing started at 9 a.m.
But Tiu told members of the panel that the one-page MOA between him and Laureano Gregorio, purported original owner of the 150-hectare farm in Batangas, is “standard practice.”
“This is a standard practice. This is not the first time I engaged on a one-page agreement,” Tiu told the sub-panel at the resumption of the Senate’s investigation into the alleged overpriced Makati City Hall Building 2.
Tiu is allegedly one of the persons being used by Binay as a dummy to hide ownership of his properties. Tiu has denied the allegation and insisted he owns the place, which he said costs P446 million, and has paid P11 million for the usufruct.
Vice President Jejomar C. Binay has also denied owning the property, claiming he has already divested himself of ownership.
But the Senate hearing was briefly interrupted when the Vice President’s spokesmen – interim United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) president and Navotas Rep. Toby Tiangco, and UNA interim secretary-general JV Bautista – were barred from presenting proof that former Makati City vice mayor Ernesto Mercado was hospitalized.
In the previous hearing, Mercado had challenged Binay and his allies that they can move that his statements be stricken off the records if they can show proof he was lying about having been hospitalized.
“If the Vice President can show proof that I was hospitalized while in the Philippines, burahin nila lahat ng aking testimonya. Ibig sabihin ako ay sinunggaling,” Mercado had said in an October 22 hearing.
Taking up the challenge, Tiangco and Bautista tried to present the document but Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano intervened, saying they are not allowed to speak because they were not duly invited to appear before the sub-committee probe. 

Even without authority from Pimentel, Bautista continued to speak in behalf of the Vice President.
This prompted Cayetano to order the Office of the Sergeant-At-Arms (OSAA) to stop Bautista and Tiangco from speaking before the microphone, and Pimentel suspended the proceedings, and then talk to Tiangco and Bautista regarding their sudden participation.
But even after a short talk with Pimentel, members of the OSAA escorted both Tiangco and Bautista out of the Senate session hall.
An irate Bautista told an OSAA member who was called to escort them: “Huwag mo akong itulak.”
At the continuation of the hearing, Cayetano made a Power Point presentation, showing Instagram photos and posts of Joanna Marie Blanca Binay, daughter of the Vice President.
In one Instagram post, the younger Binay referred to the swimming pool inside the property as “our place in Batangas.” Another photo showed them having “dinner in Batangas.”
Another photo also showed an Instagram update showing her father holding a microphone, with the caption: “it’s Karaoke time!!” The date is December 25, 2012.
Cayetano said the posts and photos are indications that the controversial property is owned by the Vice President.
“Nag-videoke lang, may-ari ka na? (Having a videoke session already means ownership of the property?),” Binay’s spokesman for political concerns Cavite Gov. Jonvic Remulla asked.
“The Vice President and his family have been open about using the facilities and visiting Rosario. For one, Dr. Binay has a flower farm there. But these photos, like previous photos shown by Sen. Cayetano, are not proof of ownership,” Remulla stressed.
At the hearing, Tiu insisted owning the property and denied he is a dummy of the Vice President. He said the property costs P446 million, and has paid P11 million for the usufruct.
But Agrarian Reform Secretary Virgilio delos Reyes, who was invited to the hearing, told the committee that as far as he knows, Tiu was only leasing the farm estate.
Delos Reyes said that was what Tiu told him during their conversation when he was invited at the launch of Sunchamp in August, 2014.
Despite his claim, Tiu failed to convince Pimentel, Cayetano, and Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, who noted the document does not even include a timetable of the supposed schedule of payments for the property.
“You told us a story so you have to back it up with paper trail. This is it? You gave us a one-page agreement? You paid twice, can you give us proof of payment? Some tax declarations were surrendered to you for sure,” Pimentel told Tiu.
Trillanes reiterated he believes Tiu is “part of the cover-up.”
“One week has passed, you’ve been all over the radio saying you have the documents. Now you have this, again you’re pretending it was not requested. You have no time anymore as far as I am concerned,” Trillanes pointed out.
The sub-panel invited Bureau of Internal Revenue Commissioner Kim Henares to the hearing to assess the document Tiu submitted for tax analysis.
Cayetano, for his part, moved to have Gregorio cited for contempt for repeatedly failing to appear before the Senate.
“He’s an essential resource  person so if we don’t accept  his  showcase  order,  I’m now putting  on record that I’ll move that he be held in  contempt and an order of detention be issued,” Cayetano said in making the manifestation.
Pimentel then directed Gregorio and other invited resource persons who refuse to attend the probe to issue a show-cause order explaining their absence in the hearing.
Mercado, Binay’s erstwhile ally, was the one who claimed the property belongs to the Vice President.
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