MANILA, Philippines–It is allegedly an “open secret” that while he was mayor of Makati City, Vice President Jejomar Binay received condominium units from property developers in order to facilitate the release of tax and building permits from the City Municipality.
Five of the country’s giants in the properties industry, however, have denied taking part in such a scheme, and even question if it indeed exists.
In Tuesday’s hearing before the Senate blue ribbon subcommittee, SM Development Corp. (SMDC), Megaworld Corp., Robinsons Land Corp. (RLC), Rockwell Land Corp. and Eton Properties threw out claims made by former Makati City vice mayor, Ernesto Mercado, that it was common practice to give then-mayor Binay condominium units so as to expedite the release of the necessary permits.
Bernard Vincent Dy, president of Ayala Land, perhaps the biggest developer within the Makati Central Business District, said: “This is not our business practice nor have we encountered a request of this nature,” said whose crown jewel is the Makati central business district.
Mercado, however, had earlier claimed in his statement that Ayala Land was the only property company which did not give condominium units to Binay.
Megaworld’s head of public relations, Harold Geronimo, expressed the same sentiments on his company’s behalf: “No, we don’t do that,” he said.
SMDC, developer of newly-constructed high-rise residential cluster, Jazz Residences in Bel-Air Makati, said that “Vice President Binay or any member of his family has no unit or units in our project.”
RLC, owned by the Gokongwei group, likewise denied that units from their high-end development in Makati, Signa Designer Residences, had been given to Binay.
Both Rockwell Land of the Lopez family and Eton Propertoes of Lucio Tan junked the allegations, as well. The former said in a statement that their records “bare no history of any transaction with Vice President Binay nor his family members. And neither is there any unit currently registered under the ownership of the Vice President nor his family members.”; while the latter said that “Eton did not and will not give any condominium unit to any politician or government official in exchange for preferential treatment as Eton maintains a policy of complying with all LGU (local government unit) regulations for all its developments.”
Mercado is the key witness of the Senate blue ribbon subcommittee investigation into allegations against Binay which include the overpricing of city projects and buildings, and the receipt of kickbacks, among others.