Land of unusual risks

Ben D. Kritz

Ben D. Kritz

Earlier this week, a video recorded during the launch ceremony for the Sunchamp Agri-Tourism Park in Batangas was posted on YouTube. The clip, not quite two minutes long, shows Senator Antonio “Sonny” Trillanes IV offering congratulations to his “good friend” Tony Tiu, the founder and CEO of Agrinuture Inc. (ANI), who developed the park.

The Sunchamp park, of course, is the 350-hectare property at the center of a controversy created by Trillanes, fellow Senators Alan Peter Cayetano and Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel 3rd and former Makati City Vice Mayor Ernesto Mercado over the alleged “ill-gotten wealth” of Vice President Jejomar Binay. Trillanes, the former Navy supply clerk who led two buffoonish failed coup attempts and was elected to the Senate from inside a detention cell, has accused his “good friend” Tiu of being a dummy, or a front, for Binay to hide the latter’s true ownership of the impressive property.

Tiu hotly denied that charge in public this week, beseeching the Senate subcommittee conducting the Binay inquisition to “not play with our lives for the sake of political grandstanding,” in a statement signed by the ANI Employees’ Cooperative, ANI suppliers, distributors, and just about anyone else that has anything at all to do with the company. ANI directly employs about 5,000 people, and supports a farmer and merchant network that Tiu says numbers well over 100,000.

According to available SEC records and other company disclosures, the story concocted by Mercado and Trillanes is a complete fabrication, one that was uncritically taken at face value by at least one major newspaper and a couple of well-known veteran political journalists. Unfortunately for them, that accomplished nothing but to add to their reputation of being completely irresponsible at times. Tiu himself has announced that he appear before the Senate panel to refute the charges directly.

What makes the situation maddening is that, barring the revelation of some hard evidence of what would have to be a large-scale and extremely complicated fraud carried out by Binay, Tiu, and several hundred other stakeholders of ANI—which is unlikely to say the least, given the zeal with which Mercado, Trillanes, et al. have seized on any shred of irregularity, real or imagined, on Binay’s part—the situation boils down to a case of a company having its reputation publicly smeared for the thinnest of circumstantial reasons: A simple deal between the Binay family and ANI to transfer a small parcel of land to the latter sometime last century. ANI since has become a progressive and reasonably successful enterprise, and in the context of the dire need for agricultural development in the Philippines, one of the country’s more socially acceptable companies as well.

And to add insult to injury, the unwarranted attack is being publicly carried out by personalities who are largely immune to any legal response by ANI. Not that it would make much difference anyway; the damage has been done. The best outcome ANI could hope for is for the contrived scandal to fade from public attention quickly to minimize the impact on its future business, while its existing customers and partners simply overlook it for now.

To my knowledge, there is nobody in this country, myself and other public critics included, who is actively working to discourage business investment and expansion, even if ideas about how best to encourage those things differ. Those who believe that a realistic, no-BS assessment of the business environment, an honest picture of what a prospective investor or entrepreneur is “getting himself into” has more value in the long run can provide a useful risk analysis. We can explain how to accommodate or work around faulty infrastructure, inefficient and time-consuming regulatory requirements, traffic congestion, unfavorable tax regimes, a challenging climate, even the inevitable low-level corruption encountered when dealing with local government officials.

But there is no way to describe a work-around for something like ANI has encountered, and until now, there has been no reason to anticipate it. Sonny Trillanes is a Senator of the Republic; the job description, even in this country, does not include, “May officially endorse your project with his presence, and then later, without warning, accuse you of gross violations of the law while grinding a political ax against someone with whom you have little to no actual business.” Yet, that apparently is now a legitimate risk, and since the country on the whole does not show any inclination to suddenly stop voting for self-aggrandizing, ignorant yahoos, it is a risk that we will now have to add to our list of “unique problems one may face while doing business in the Philippines” and try to find solutions.

Anyone have any ideas? Because I for one am completely stumped.


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  1. I watched all these hearings from day 2 up to the last hearings. This hearing is in aid of legislation. This means that all resource persons or witnesses should say all the truth in order to come out a new law or amend an existing law. In this hearing, I can say an amendment of Procurement Law, a creation of Anti-Dummy Law for Local or Filipinos, amendment of law regarding Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth and I guess a creation of law for unexplained wealth of public servants. I made my conclusions, the three senators, sometimes there were lapses in the manner of questioning the resource persons and I don’t blamed them because they believed some of the resource persons are just making alibis or lies. My opinion is there were overpriced in Makati Carpark Building and a cover-up. Kalakaran o as Mr. Tiu says, IT IS STANDARD.

  2. Ben D. Kritz

    I can understand why this has to have a moderator for you have been paid and bought for by Binay no less, Just like in Cebu where i am he paid lands for the Urban poor saying it is coming from him. this was two years ago this was in preparation for his Presidential bid. even though we know he is in charge of housing in the cabinet.

  3. Of course, who else will investigate, it takes one to know one.
    Of course, it is in aid of legislation. If you are an accountant, or not even an accountant but if you are a diligent businessman, every improvement in procedures and systems will redound to thousands(private business), millions(corporation), billions and trillions(government) of pesos in savings and productivity.
    Of course, JCB will not be a good President, because, just like GMA, they both has obligations to pay. Where will be their source in paying the Remulla’s, Tiongco’s, you know where…..from us taxpayers.

  4. tawag kay trillanes honorable pero napanood ko sa hearing at sabi nya HUWAG KANG NGUMITI! WHAG KANG MAGPACUTE! HINDI AKO NAKOCUTAN SA IYO! ganyan ba ang pasasalita ng isang kagalanggalang? sa batas cguro ni trillanes ay nagpapacute ung isang tao pag ngumiti at masama ang ngumite. pero nong si raiza robles ung ngumiti at pati rin sina trillanes at cayetano at pimentel ay ngumite, ok lang. ganyan ba ang patas na pagdinig at sinasabing kagalanggalang na senador????

    • Of course Sen. Trillanes has to say in such effect for the smile and laugh of Tiu, is sarcastic and no company President in his right mind would laugh at a senate inquiry, and could not event present the right documents.

  5. Mary-Rose D. Feller on

    Anong pakialam ni Trillanes Pimentel at Cayetano sa property ng ibang tao pinag hirapan nya yon ng matagal ng panahon . Eh problema nila wala silang naipundar na ganyan , gusto lang nila sirain ang credibilidad ng isang tao na mahusay at magaling mamahala , sa totoo lang hindi yayaman ang Makati kung mahina ang lider nito dahil walang maniwalang mamumuhunan sa yo kung corupt kang lider and you cannot compare the cost of one building to another because this depend on the condition of the soil with respect to its foundation . itong tatlong nag mamagaling na senador na ito mag aral muna sila Geology at Foundation Engineering para hidi naman ma kompromiso ang strenght at stability ng isang gusali. go!!!!go!!binay ,

    • The Senate should pass the anti-dynasty law at the earliest to stop wholesale family corruptions in the country. The Binays are the worst, they are even more evil than GMA or Marcos combined!

    • Of course for your sake of answering your statement if you did not know Mary Rose, Binay is holding public office and he is beholden to that office that the properties he owned or has acquired is by true and legal. not ill- gotten.The trouble with Makati people is dahil pinakain kayo pinagbigyan kayo you will not trouble yourself to know if hindi ba ito nakaw, and would you believe that if true na hind nagnakaw ang mga Binay mas malaki pa ang na-ibigay sa inyo at sa city of Makati. Minsa mag-isip kayo not to sppon feed by what the Binays has said to you.

    • talaga lang dapat pagsabihan yan si Tiu….huli naman siya talaga eh….kapag nagsasabi ng totoo o nakiki-cooperate ng totoo kahit ngumiti siya ng buong oras eh maiintindihan….ang pag-ngiti niya eh pang-asar….ako naiintindihan ko ang pinagusapan regarding sa Financial Statement na pinasa ni Tiu sa SEC….hindi duon nakasama ang downpayment niya nuong 2013 para sa lupa at pinalalabas niya na iyon eh “Advances from Officers” para sa Sunchamp…..ibig sabihin nito ang Suncham eh may utang sa kanyang P5M para sa 2013(P6M para sa 2014)…..samakatuwid kung may utang ang Sunchamp kay Tiu dapat nadagdagan ang Asset ng Sunchamp na maaring Investment o kaya Land and Improvement….simpleng accounting lang yan Tiu and Kuarog Enting…..

    • hindi ako sang-ayon sa iyo na yumaman ang Makati dahil sa galing ni Binay….Panahon pa ni Mayor Yabut meron ng Makati Financial District….Dumami ang pera ng Makati dahil sa Local Government Code na si dating Senator Nene Pimentel ang may akda na nag-uutos na sa buwis na makukuha sa bawat bayan o siyudad eh automatikong may shares ang bayan o siyudad at eto ung tinatawag na Internal Revenue Allotment….at ang Makati FD nuon pa man eh lugar na ng negosyo kumpara sa Maynila at Quezon City o kahit saan pa man….at nuong wala pang IRA na galing sa LGC, ang bawat bayan o siyudad eh umaasa lamang sa bigay ng central government o Malacanang….kaya nga gumanda ang Ilocos Norte eh….isip-isip muna….

  6. I don’t think Trillanes will fabricate this type of accusations if he cannot back them with hard evidence. It’s best we wait for the hearing to see who is telling a lie… might eat your own words…..

  7. what can you expect to a no knowledge coupal coup senator a mere clerk from the navy and now a senatong coup. bec of his becoming tuta or lapdog of mad mar abad drilon and the moneys ay sayang lang ang mga buwis natin isa sya sa sumisipsip at linta na umuubos sa yaman ng bayan. isama mo pa un 2 cayetano at pimentel lalo ng dumadami ang mga limatik at buwaya sa lipunan. bakit hindi nila pagtuunan ay ang lumalalang unemployment baka ia ito maging solusyon sa kanila 3 para mabago ang pagtingin ng mga botante sa kanila. wake up 3 itlog

    • sen. trillanes is not a no knowledge coup senator as you claimed art verbo….kaya nga nag-coup siya dahil pinababayaan ang mga sundalong nasa ibaba o sa kabundukan….for your info….nuon pa man ay balita na sa taga-Makati ang nangyayaring corruption sa Makati…..dati hearsay ngayon may nagpapatotoo na…..ikaw ba magpapagawa ng building o bahay na gagawan kagad ng pundasyon eh hindi man lang nakikita ang buong architectural plan as HillMark and other contractor claimed….nakapagtrabaho ako sa architectural firm kaya alam kong hindi totoo yan….at si Tiu mahilig mag-alibi ng standard daw ang lahat ng aksyon nila….Standard maybe but not in accordance of law or moral….isip-isip….

  8. I have good friend close friends who are involved with Binay’s corrupt syndicate in Makati and they swear that Binay indeed owns that hacienda.

    • Anybody who has experience with Makati City (contractor/supplier) can attest that Binay and his family have been accepting kickbacks through personalities already mentioned in the news. The corruption in Makati is public knowledge.

    • my former boss told me when i visited his (our) office last October that there were a raffle of a condominium unit located in Rockwell and its won by a congress*****************…..the source is someone who knows this winner…..isip-isip

  9. Thank you, Sir, for your very informative and analytical column.
    Relative to their Job Descriptions in reference to the members of Congress, another item may be included, a catch 22 type like, “Perform other tasks, legal or otherwise, as may directed by the President, or to advance vested interests.”
    I had been wondering how come this dude, Trillanes, got elected in the Senate, for two terms at that.
    An informant told me that Trillanes has a big house with high walls and with armed guards in Novaliches. Allegedly, this house is near Jordan Plains. This guy must be rich.

  10. Nothing the 3 stooges, conducting the kangaroo court, for political motives, do is believable. They rule liars telling lies in their court are telling the truth. They rule that heresay coming from a conspirator, who was told it by a friend, who was told it by a vistor, who heard it from a now deceased person is strong evidence against the accused. Let’s stop wasting our money on this Senate court!

    • Don’t you think Binay is wasting the money for you will not hear the truth ,buying a land which will only benefit his family, The trouble with you is that you think Binay is a saint. Kaya buhay nating mga Pinoy hindi umaasenso basically of people thinking that the person they supported is really good. at the end of the day Binay can relax thinking he has completely made people believe that he is poor and righteous, and counting his millions while ikaw nagtiis sa karampot mong kita, while Binay squanders his billions that will only benefit his family, and finally AT THE END OF THE DAY BINAY WILL NOT EVEN KNOW WHO YOU ARE AND WHY ARE YOU PROTECTING HIM EVEN IF YOU ARE NOT PRIVY TO HIS PLANS. THINK!!! A THOUSAND TIMES AND STILL YOU STILL YOU HAVE NOTHING.

    • A corrupt nowadays is genius. He does not received cash or in-kind in cheques or in documents bearing his name and signatures because of so called “MONEY TRAIL OR PAPER TRAIL”. They would rather received the cash through their paid personnel and documents under the names of again their paid personnel. Lalabas nga namang hearsays pero isn’t coincidence na ang lumalabas na mga pangalan eh mga associates nila. You better think again, people of the Philippines.

  11. Is trillanes a fit & proper person, he should resign because of this but here in the philippines that will never happen. No he will stay there until the next election & try to get re elected. These politicians dont care if they lie cheat steal or whatever. How you ever get any investors from abroad to put their money here is beyond me as who would trust a single one of them. Not me not for one second.

  12. Dominador D. Canastra on

    Thanks, Mr. Ben Kritz for another very good column. It’s really a shame tht Senator Trillanes can be allowed to do what he did in what you call buffoonish coup attempts to the Senate and to ouor general society, do unjust and buffoonish “coups” against good people and honest businesses. He has found a patron in another buffoon–President Aquino and Sec, Abad.
    God save the Philippines from such demonic forces!

  13. Gustave Fernandes on

    …Trillanes is oozing with “ulterior motives”. won’t hesitate to sacrifice a shoal, or a friend for political grandstanding.

    and of course, the social annoyances (those who vote for them) are enjoying the politics like it is a pinoy movie they religiously follow.