MANILA – Former Makati City Vice Mayor Ernesto Mercado dropped a new bombshell on the Binays—a 350-hectare bombshell, to be exact.
According to Mercado, former Makati City Mayor—now Vice President—Jejomar ‘Jojo’ Binay owns an agricultural estate in Rosario, Batangas as big as six Luneta Parks or 14 times bigger than Quezon Memorial Circle.
“I’m glad the spokesperson of the Vice President admitted that the farm is owned by the Vice President, but the whole farm is 350 hectares and not nine hectares as they claimed,” Mercado said, referring to Joey Salgado—the head of Binay’s media office.
According to Salgado on Monday, Binay released himself as a lessee of the 9-hectare property JCB Farms when he became the vice president in 2010.
“We will not be surprised that if in the coming days, video footage or photos of the property will be circulated in media and perhaps even presented in the Senate subcommittee hearing alleging that Vice President Binay is the owner of the said property,” Salgado said Monday.
In a slide presentation shown to the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, Mercado shared his proof of the Binay’s estate in Batangas, which includes “an airconditioned piggery and a flower farm that grows imported varieties of orchids,” and a poultry farm.
Mercado, a geodetic engineer by profession, personally surveyed the estate aboard a helicopter on Thursday, October 2, which took aerial photos and video footage of the property in question.
He described the property as a “high-end hacienda” since it includes a man-made lagoon, a resort-type swimming pool, a horse ranch, a 40-car garage, and an intricate “maze garden” reminiscent of the Kew Gardens in London.
“The high-end hacienda of the Binays shows the real character of the couple, who posed as a poor couple,” Mercado said.
The garden and the flower farm are said to be former Makati City Mayor Dra. Elenita Binay’s major interests after visiting London in 2007 for the 100th Boy Scouts Jamboree with VP Binay.
“Iyan po ay kinopya ni Dra. Binay doon sa… Kew Gardens sa London. Ako ho ay pinilit niyang makadalaw diyan. Hindi ko po alam na gusto pala niyang kopyahin (Dra. Binay copied that [the garden] from the Kew Garden in London. She coerced me to visit the garden. I didn’t know she was planning on replicating it),” said Mercado to the Committee.
Mercado added that the Binay’s version of the Kew Gardens is actually bigger than the original Royal Botanical Garden in Kew.
The estate also has a mansion for the Binays, said to be patterned from the British Royal Couple’s summer palace.
“‘Yun pong bahay diyan na makikita ninyo, sang-ayon po sa kasaysayan, iyan po ay ginawa ng mga prinsesa at queen ng England at naging kagawian nilang pasyalan ‘yan (The house that you see there, according to history, was built by princesses and the Queen in England and has become their destination of choice for leisure),” Mercado said.
Mercado also added that the Binay’s Batangas mansion is even bigger than the Royal Family’s rest house.
Where did all this wealth come from?
In his presentation, Mercado also showed several interviews with the locals of Rosario, Batangas about the owner of the said property—all pointing to the Binays.
He also detailed how the prominent political family acquired the estate with an estimated value of P1.2 billion (CAD $21.92 million).
In an exclusive feature with the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Mercado shared records from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) showing the names of the shareholders of Agrifortuna Inc.—the same business referred to by Salgado as JCB Farms.
According to Mercado, Agrifortuna was established and registered with SEC in 1993.
Its shareholders include Gerardo S. Limlingan, VP Binay’s long-time aide, and Tomas B. Lopez, president of University of Makati.
Limlingan was first mentioned in the ongoing investigation on the allegedly overpriced Makati City Hall Building II. He was noted as one of the shareholders of Meriras Realty and Development Corporation. On previous hearings, Mercado accused Binay of using Meriras shareholders as a front to benefit from the overpriced construction of the 10-storey City Hall.
According to SEC records, Agrifortuna’s 1994 board of directors include Jejomar Binay and wife Elenita of San Antonio Village, Makati; Ruben Balane of Loyola Heights, Quezon City; Victor Gelia of Plainview, Mandaluyong City; and Nestor Alampay Jr. of South Greenpark, Parañaque City.
The current incorporators of Agrifortuna Inc. are now Gerardo S. Limlingan of Pasay City, Tomas B. Lopez of Pasig City, Laureano R. Gregorio Jr. of Quezon City, Mindanila Barlis of Pasig City, and Mitzi O. Sedillo of Makati City.
The agricultural company—aimed “to develop, manage, own, lease and operate agricultural lands, farms, pasture lands, ranches, fish pens, foreshore lands and fishing rights or concessions; to engage in the planting and cultivation of coffee, cocoa, pepper, rice corn and other farm products,” – has a value of P29.75 million according to its 2013 financial statement.
In his statement, Salgado confirmed that VP Binay established his piggery business as the “sole proprietor” under JCB Farms in 1994 as registered in the BIR office of Rosario, Batangas. Within its 16 years of operation, the enterprise contributed P44,350,921.99 of additional income to Binay, which was taxed at P15.88 million.
Today, the piggery is leased by Sunchamp Agri-Tourism Park, according to Salgado.
“Based on records we have gathered, the lessor of the property is Sunchamp Real Estate Development Corp., operator of Sunchamp Agri-Tourism Park,” Salgado’s statement read.
“It is unfortunate that legitimate businesses of private individuals are being dragged into this political circus,” he added.