Tiu on kidnapping joke: Shameless, insensitive
Reinir Padua (The Philippine Star) - November 6, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Joking about the possibility of his being kidnapped is no laughing matter for Antonio Tiu.

The Chinese-Filipino businessman called Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano “shameless and insensitive” for making the joke during a recent televised public hearing, apparently to taunt him for claiming ownership of an agricultural estate believed to be owned by Vice President Jejomar Binay.

In a press conference yesterday, a teary-eyed Tiu said that while he and his family have always been concerned about their security, his appearance before the Senate Blue Ribbon subcommittee late last month may have exposed them to greater risk as it had given criminals a hint of his wealth.

“Napakawalang-hiya at walang damdamin (So shameless and insensitive),” Tiu said of Cayetano. After hearing Tiu insist on ownership over assets and properties including a vast farming estate in Rosario, Batangas believed to be Binay’s, Cayetano joked that Tiu could haggle with kidnappers over the amount of ransom.

“Senator Cayetano, is it right and humane for you to joke about kidnapping? Is it right to humiliate me and make me a laughing stock on the issue of kidnapping, especially us members of the Filipino-Chinese community who have to deal with this danger every day?” Tiu said in a statement in Filipino.

He lambasted Cayetano for trying to pin him down on baseless accusations and for gloating over his being maligned and humiliated on national television. After exposing him to public ridicule, Tiu said Cayetano made him fair game for kidnappers.

“Maybe to you it’s just politics. But for us Filipino-Chinese kidnapping is a serious issue and a real threat,” he said.

Tiu again denied being a dummy of Binay or of anyone. He also said he is not a money launderer.

He said the senators “have unleashed against my companies the full arsenal of the government,” referring to the investigations being conducted by the Bureau of Internal Revenue, the Anti-Money Laundering Council, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the Department of Agrarian Reform, the National Bureau of Investigation and the Securities and Exchange Commission into his business interests.

He expressed confidence he would come out clean from these investigations, saying all his transactions were aboveboard.

“I am standing by my statement that I am a buyer of the Rosario property in good faith. I made a sound business decision. The papers for the transfer of the titles to Sunchamp are still ongoing, and I know Sunchamp, its investors and partner farmers will turn a good profit from agri-tourism revenues in the future,” he said.

Don’t look at us

Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV laughed off Tiu’s claim of threats on his safety, calling it a “drama” aimed at drawing public sympathy.

In his own press conference, Trillanes said there would be no letup in the senators’ effort to get to the bottom of the Binay wealth issue, even if it would mean implicating Tiu.

“I’m sorry Mr. Tiu but we will not be swayed by your drama. We will go after him (Tiu). We will get to the bottom of this and if it is proven that he is part of the cover up, he will have to answer for this,” Trillanes said.

He also dismissed Tiu’s pronouncement that the latter’s Senate appearance had unnecessarily exposed his financial status and made him a target of kidnappers.

The senator said the only people who would profit from Tiu’s being eased out of the picture were the Vice President and his men.

“If there are threats, they’re not from us. If I were him, he should look at his accomplices now because they have the most to gain if he disappears,” Trillanes said.

“I don’t need to hurt him. If he really thinks that there are threats against him then he should go to the police and ask for protection,” he added.

Trillanes has accused Tiu of lying before the Blue Ribbon subcommittee by insisting that he is the true owner of a 150- to 350-hectare farming estate in Rosario.

He said Tiu had nothing to show to prove his ownership of the property except for a memorandum of agreement on the supposed sale with alleged original owner Laureano Gregorio Jr. The document was not even notarized.

He advised Tiu to come clean as soon as possible or face legal action.

“My doors are still open. If he will tell the truth then we can provide protection,” Trillanes said, adding that the businessman may even apply as a state witness under the Witness Protection Program.

Tiu earlier filed a multi-million damage suit against Trillanes for calling him a dummy of Binay. He said he was also studying possible legal action against Cayetano.

The opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), for its part, said it was “foolish and stupid” of Trillanes to insinuate that Binay was behind alleged death threats on Tiu.

“The trouble with Mr. Trillanes is that he is driven more by testosterone than by cerebrum. He clearly suffers a deficit in logic when he maliciously imputes on the Vice President any serious harm that could visit upon Mr. Tiu,” UNA interim secretary general JV Bautista said.

Only Trillanes with his “martial law mindset,” Bautista said, “could think and inflict harm, and at worst, annihilate his perceived enemies.” – Helen Flores

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