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Blue Ribbon ends probe on Binay cases

The Senate Blue Ribbon subcommittee finally concluded its probe into the alleged anomalies involving Vice President Jejomar Binay. Philstar.com/AJ Bolando, file

MANILA, Philippines - After 25 hearings over 17 months, the Senate Blue Ribbon subcommittee finally concluded its probe into the alleged anomalies involving Vice President Jejomar Binay.

No new information was presented during yesterday’s hearing which, as subcommittee chairman Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III said, was to wrap up the unfinished issues.

“Our public committee hearings on the two resolutions will end today (yesterday). This representation would like to assure everyone that legislative ideas based on the evidence that we have gathered and our findings on the two resolutions shall be forthcoming. To remind everyone, this subcommittee’s proceedings were undertaken in aid of legislation,” Pimentel said in his opening statement.

The decision to end the hearings was made after Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, who came out with the resolutions that paved the way for the conduct of the probe, agreed to conclude this yesterday.

Trillanes said he just wanted the presentations made during yesterday’s hearing to be placed on record to be included in the final committee report to be drafted by Pimentel.

A partial committee report was released by Pimentel last year but it only focused on the allegedly overpriced parking building turned Makati City Hall 2 building.

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After the parking building issue, the subcommittee took up several other issues, namely the main Makati City Hall Building; University of Makati Nursing Building; Makati Science High School Building; the supplies for Ospital ng Makati; the alleged irregularities in the Pag-IBIG Fund; the granting of developmental loans to favored contractors; the award of service contracts to favored bidders; the Boy Scouts of the Philippines-Alphaland joint venture agreement; University of Makati-STI joint venture agreement; the award of government land to an unqualified private corporation, Meriras Realty and Development Corp. property in Comembo, Makati; the so-called “Hacienda Binay” in Rosario, Batangas; the benefits of Makati City senior citizens; Makati City sister cities; the Makati Friendship Suites and Makati Homeville.

During yesterday’s hearing, former Makati City barangay chairman Renato Bondal recapped the reports that came out last year regarding the move of the Anti-Money Laundering Council to freeze several bank accounts and financial instruments under the names of the Vice President, his friends and associates.

A total of 242 of the bank accounts and financial instruments were ordered frozen by the Court of Appeals, the sum of which is said to be around P11 billion.

Bondal pointed out most of these were hidden by the Vice President under the names of his close aides such as Gerardo Limlingan and Eduviges Baloloy, who have standing warrants of arrest but could not be located.

He also showed a web of names and organizations representing the alleged “Binay syndicate,” all of which were traced from the creation of the JC Binay Foundation and its officers Binay and Limlingan.

Binay finds an ally

It was during this part of the presentation of Bondal that Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile started questioning the conclusions being made against the Vice President.

This was the first time that any senator other than Pimentel, Trillanes and Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano attended the hearings since they started in August 2014.

Enrile, an ally of the Vice President in the United Nationalist Alliance, was also the first senator who came to the defense of Binay in the hearings.

On the claim of Bondal that the declared net worth of the Vice President grew by 2,300 percent from P2.5 million in 1998 to P60.25 million in 2014, Enrile noted Bondal failed to consider how the cost of the assets were derived as well as the exchange rate that varied from year to year.

Enrile also questioned the links made by Bondal between Binay and the various organizations that supposedly formed the “Binay syndicate.”

Enrile pointed out Bondal showed no evidence to back up his claims, such as a paper trail that would show a transfer of funds or other assets that would link Binay to the various organizations.

Based on what he saw in Bondal’s presentation, Enrile said all he saw was a direct link between Binay and Limlingan to the JC Binay Foundation and nothing else.

“Was there anything to show that there was a transfer of funds that paved the way for the Vice President’s control of these organizations through that foundation?” Enrile asked.

Former Makati City vice mayor Ernesto Mercado, who used to be allied with Binay, said he was part of the incorporators of JC Binay Foundation and what he has been able to prove was Limlingan and Baloloy were the bagmen of the Vice President.

“That is your word. But you are presenting a concrete evidence of relationship. You have to prove each step of the whole relationship. That is your interpretation. That is your conclusion. There is no problem with that, but whether that is true to fact or reality is something else,” Enrile said.

Even in the bank accounts presented by Bondal, Enrile said he only managed to show two persons, referring to Limlingan and Baloloy, transferring money to each other and nothing directly involving the Vice President.

“You show that in court and that’s meaningless. You have to trace the flow of wealth, where it originated,” Enrile said. – With Helen Flores, Alexis Romero

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