DAR chief: Documents show Sunchamp is property’s owner
AGRARIAN Reform Secretary Virgilio delos Reyes said none of the documents that have surfaced so far proves that Vice President Jejomar Binay owns the controversial Batangas property —the subject of an investigation by the Senate blue ribbon committee.
Delos Reyes, in an interview aired over ABS-CBN’s Bandila, said his agency has not come across any document that would show that Binay owns the property that was developed by the Sunchamp Real Estate Development Corp.
“Sa mga papeles natin ngayon ay wala dahil ang Sunchamp ang nagsasabi na kanila ang property [From the documents that we have right now, there’s none, because it’s Sunchamp who’s claiming ownership of it],” the Agrarian Reform chief replied when asked if he thought that the property located in Rosario town was owned by Binay.
He, however, said Sunchamp only had clearance to buy two parcels of land with a total area of 2.8 hectares. Sunchamp owner Antonio Tiu had said he bought the 150 hectare-property. Former Makati City Vice Mayor Ernesto Mercado had claimed that Tiu was a dummy of Binay.
The businessman had said he acquired the property from Laureano Gregorio Jr. But when summoned by a Senate blue ribbon sub-committee headed by Sen. Aquilino Pimentel 3rd, Tiu told senators that he only acquired the usufruct rights over the land.
Delos Reyes said the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) continues to investigate the sale of the Batangas estate because a big part of it was covered by the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) while other areas were covered by Certificate of Land Ownership Award (CLOA).
The DAR chief added that based on documents obtained from the Registry of Deeds in Batangas, only 4.8 hectares were transferred to Sunchamp. He said if the department discover that the parcels of land covered by CARP were sold without clearance from DAR, the government will take back the land from farmer beneficiaries.
Under the law, farmers can only sell the land they acquire under the government’s land reform program if they get clearance from the Agrarian Reform department.
When he testified before the blue ribbon sub-committee on October 30, delos Reyes said their investigation aims to determine if agrarian reform laws were violated when the Batangas estate was acquired by Sunchamp.
He told the Senate panel that during the inauguration of the Sunchamp Agri-Tourism Park in August this year, he already told Tiu to prepare documents to prove his ownership of the estate.
“We are going to evaluate that and take the appropriate action. How did you get this land? It was so big. I said you better fix the papers because in time my monitoring team will take a look at this,” the DAR chief also told the committee.
In his Senate testimony, Tiu maintained that he, not Binay, owns the Batangas estate. He presented a one-page Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between him and Gregorio. Under the agreement, which was signed on January 18, 2013, Tiu’s Sunchamp Real Estate Development Corp. has usufructuary rights over the land.
The MOA also stated that Gregorio agreed to sell the property for P400 million and shall cause the registration of the improvements in the name of Sunchamp.
“Mr. Gregorio shall deliver to Sunchamp all documents and titles evidencing the real and enforceable rights of Sunchamp over the property,” it read.
Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano, however, insisted that the document is not binding since it was not notarized.
The Senate blue ribbon committee suspended its investigation of allegations against Binay in November to give way to budget deliberations.