VICE President Jejomar Binay owns units in at least six condominiums in Makati City (Metro Manila), all of which are registered under several “dummies,” former Vice Mayor Ernesto Mercado has claimed.
Mercado said one of these condo units is the P18-million unit at The Peak Tower, which, according to him, belongs to Binay but was registered under a certain Ariel Olivar.
The camp of Binay immediately denied Mercado’s allegations and pointed to the former vice mayor as the real owner of the property.
In fact, according to Cavite Gov. Jonvic Remulla, Binay’s spokesperson on political affairs, the property is “the same unit where Racquel Ambrosio, the former live-in partner of Mercado and daughter of the late comedian Babalu, lived.”
“This is also the location of the shooting incident in which Mercado was considered by the police as the prime suspect,” Remulla said.
“Contrary to the claims made by Mr. Ernesto Mercado that Vice President Jejomar C. Binay is using a dummy to hide his ownership of a condominium unit at The Peak Tower, what we know is that Mr. Mercado is the real owner of the unit,” he added.
On April 24, 2002, Ambrosio died in the condo unit from a gunshot wound to the stomach. The gun used in the shooting was registered to Mercado, who surrendered the weapon a day after the incident.
“[Mercado] even admitted to cleaning the crime scene. The couple had an altercation before the incident,” Remulla said.
He challenged Olivar to disclose all pieces of property under his name, stressing that Olivar “is known to be a dummy of Mr. Mercado.”
Mercado, the star witness of the Senate blue ribbon sub-committee investigating the allegedly ill-gotten wealth of the Binay family, presented to the committee on Tuesday supposed evidence that could prove an “urban legend” about how Binay allegedly demanded condominium units for each one built in the city.
At the resumption of the sub-committee investigation of the allegedly corrupt practices of Binay, Mercado, in his power point presentation, identified The Peak Condo, Le Triomphe Condo, Berjaya Hotel (formerly known as the Makati Sunrise Tower), Perla Compania de Seguros Mansion condotel, Prince Plaza II Condotel, and Avignon Tower as among the buildings where Binay owns residential units.
He, however, admitted that not a single unit was registered under Binay’s name but all were in the names of “dummies.”
Mercado said Olivar has links with Binay because the former was purportedly the surveyor of “Hacienda Binay,” or the vast agri-tourism farm in Rosario, Batangas, whose ownership is being claimed by Sunchamp chairperson Antonio Tiu.
The former vice mayor even presented during the hearing a sworn statement of Olivar denying that he owns the condo unit “for real.”
As for the units in Le Triomphe Condo and Berjaya Hotel, Mercado told the Senate panel that they were registered to Celso Santiago, an uncle of Binay’s wife Dr. Elenita Binay.
The unit at Perla Compania de Seguros Mansion Condotel, on the other hand, is registered to Benjamin Zapanta, a known contractor in Makati City.
Prince Plaza II Condotel is registered to Santos Panlilio while the unit in Avignon Tower is registered to his wife Aurora Panlillio.
Mercado said the Panlilios are among the favorite contractors of the Makati City government before Hillmarc’s entered the city.
But Mercado is yet to show concrete evidence to back up his claims and Remulla charged that Mercado only wove a web of lies.
“Take for example the alleged architectural services contract he claims was allegedly signed by Mrs. Binay and an architect that [turned]out to be a forgery. Then there are the receipts from Tagaytay Highlands that do not prove ownership of a log cabin as Mercado has claimed, a fact attested to by the corporation that runs Tagaytay Highlands. We should also bear in mind that the ocular inspection of the Sunchamp property revealed that Mercado’s claim of the air-conditioned piggery was nothing but a hoax,” Remulla said.
Tuesday’s hearing will have been the last to be held by the Senate blue ribbon sub-committee this year as the Senate shifts its focus to passage of the proposed 2015 General Appropriations Act (GAA) and other priority bills that also need to be passed.
Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano said even if the chamber will be able to pass the budget earlier than expected, there are other priority measures that also need to be tackled by the Senate.
These include the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law that is still being discussed by the Senate Committees on Local Government and Peace and Reconciliation; the proposed emergency powers for President Benigno Aquino 3rd in relation to the looming power crisis; and other priority bills lined up by the chamber.