Get real
Philippine Daily Inquirer, 25 October 2014

 

The information we’ve been getting from the Senate hearings on the corruption in Makati and the apparent unexplained wealth of Vice President and ex-Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay is mesmerizing. So I will continue to analyze and comment on it for the duration of the hearings.

The latest characters to arrive at the scene are the Tiu brothers, James and Anthony. James and his wife, we now know, contributed P15 million to the Binay campaign in 2010. James was 27 at the time, we are given to understand. Pretty young to be so generous a campaign funder. He also was, together with Martin Subido’s father (Martin Subido is partner in Abigail Binay’s law firm and best friend of Anthony Tiu), a principal candidate in the Ani-Pilipinas party-list group for Congress. The Tius, Subidos and Binays seem to be cozily interconnected.

But the undoubted star of the hearings was Anthony Tiu, James’ older brother. Anthony was pretty well known before he even appeared in the Senate, because after news of “Hacienda Binay” came out, he had already proclaimed to all and sundry, on TV, on radio and in print, that he was the owner of the property, not Binay. Thus, what was being brought out in the Senate hearings was all wrong. Not content with that, he had also cast aspersions on the senators conducting the inquiry, apparently accusing them of having the “talangka” (crab) mentality in trying to bring Binay down.

Well, what new things did we learn from Wednesday’s hearing?

The most important, to me, was that Anthony did not yet own—not by a long shot, anyway—“Hacienda Binay.” The owner of the property he is not. Anyone who pays some P11 million for a P450-million property, and naturally has no TCT to show proof of ownership, cannot be called an owner. And Anthony admitted it in the Senate. So why make ownership claims?

But here’s what else was fishy to me (from listening to the hearing, as the documents are not available to me):

1. Anthony says he paid P11 million in two yearly installments starting in 2011 or 2012, but nothing in his financial statements shows that he paid that amount (at least as shown during the hearing).

2. No other installments were paid since then, because he said the seller, Laureano Gregorio, had to first show that the property was indeed his (Gregorio’s), and only then would he pay the rest, also presumably in installments.

3. But he has had full use of the property since he paid the installments (usufruct) even if he doesn’t own it. Which means Gregorio gets nothing from it.

Only consider, Reader, from the point of view of the seller Gregorio. He lets go of a P450-million property (with a standing orchard of 3,000 mango trees, plus at least a house with a pool area and another house with an English-style garden, and arguably a piggery and a fighting-cock farm) for the full use of someone who has paid only P11 million. Now, if that were a normal transaction, he would have P450 million in his pocket, from which, assuming he puts it in a bank and gets a minimum of 2 percent for it, he should have been earning P9 million a year. But I am told that nowadays, with a judicious choice of financial assets to invest in, he could be getting more like 6 percent, or P27 million a year. So the opportunity cost of this deal with Anthony Tiu ranges from P9 million to P27 million a year. In the three years since he made this deal, therefore, he has already lost anywhere from P16 million to P70 million (subtract P11 million from P9 million x 3 and P27 million x 3).

Why would he consent to a deal so onerous to him? Three choices: (a) Gregorio is dumb; (b) Gregorio took a shine to Anthony Tiu and decided to give this promising young man a golden opportunity of a lifetime; and (c) the whole transaction was done to save Binay’s skin: a false seller who never intends to come up with proof of ownership of the land until Binay steps down from his promised land, a false buyer who will not touch the Binay property, but rather protect it for Binay.

4. It doesn’t look like Anthony has made any improvements or has taken advantage of the resort-like qualities of “Hacienda Binay.” I thought he was a go-go businessman, keen to grasp at any opportunity that have come his way? Why, in this case, is he moving so slow? There is no sign whatsoever at the entrance to the property or anywhere near it that indicates it is a going concern that belongs to Anthony’s company. Remember, Reader, Anthony has had full use of the property for well over three years. Fishy.

5. Then there is the matter of the photographs, taken in 2012 and 2013, long after the property was “sold” by Gregorio and “bought” by Anthony Tiu: the Binays photographed with the Philippine Orchid Society members at a lunch with Dr. Elenita Binay (she of the imported orchids from all over the world), and other photographs of the same kind, printed in magazines, showing the Binays as hosts, which Binay lawyer JV Bautista pooh-poohs, saying it will not stand in court.

Well, maybe it won’t (I wouldn’t count on it, though), in his kind of court. But it certainly makes an impact in the court of public opinion. Very great impact. Unless it is proven that these photographs are fakes, it is only common sense to Filipinos that if you invite someone to a place in Batangas that is not commercial, it must be yours. And maybe more photographs will be forthcoming from classmates and friends who have been invited to the place (all they need to remember is that they are Filipinos first before they even met Binay).

Mr. Vice President, 79 percent of Filipinos want you to face the senators and answer the issues brought up casting doubt on your integrity or your competence. What are you afraid of?