Binay on bank accounts: 'I even beat Bill Gates!'

MANILA, Philippines – “Two hundred forty-two accounts? Tinalo ko pa si Bill Gates at Warren Buffet! (Two hundred forty-two accounts? So I even beat Bill Gates and Warren Buffet!)"

Instead of giving a detailed explanation on his wealth, Vice President Jejomar joked about the Court of Appeals' (CA) freeze order on his bank accounts, and those of his relatives and alleged dummies.  (READ: Binay ‘dummies’ closing accounts since Senate probe)

In his first public appearance since his bank accounts were frozen on Monday, May 11, Binay blasted the freeze order and the report of the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) as part of “a game of exaggeration.”

Binay joked to a reporter: “Kamayan mo na kaya ako kasi palagay ko si Bill Gates may   242 bank accounts, boss, and billions of pesos. Iyon ang alam ko. Ang sa akin ay 5 lang ang accounts. 'Di naman katulad ng ni-report ninuman, ang pagkaka-spin na 242 accounts.”

(Shake my hand because I am like Bill Gates if I have 242 bank accounts, boss, and billions of pesos. That's what I know. I only have 5 bank accounts, not like what is being reported and the spin that I have 242 accounts.)

The Vice President said he did not have details of his bank transactions when reporters confronted him about the contents of the report, including his alleged large and frequent bank transactions with supposed dummies Gerardo “Gerry” Limlingan Jr and Eduviges “Ebeng” Baloloy.

Binay also denied knowledge of AMLC findings that he and his supposed dummies moved “considerable amounts” of US dollars to Canadian banks from 2008 to 2014, the period when the alleged overpriced Makati City Hall Building II and the Makati Science High School  were constructed.

He rejected the call of former Senator Panfilo Lacson to waive bank secrecy rights to disprove corruption allegations. “Ano pa ang iwe-waiver mo eh na-freeze na nga? (What else will I waive when the accounts were already frozen?)"

'Chilling effect'

In a speech before the 36th National Conference of Employers on Friday, May 15, Binay instead warned against a “chilling effect” of the freeze order on the business community.

“Let us all hope this whimsical use of regulatory powers is stopped sooner than later. It creates a chilling effect on confidence in business and banking system that is detrimental to our economy and development,” Binay said at the Marriott Hotel in Pasay on Friday.

One of the speakers at the event introduced Binay as “Your Excellency, President, ah, Vice President Jejomar Binay,” drawing laughter from the audience.

The opposition's 2016 presidential bet responded by saying: “Ito, tinawag akong 'President.' Patay ito sa AMLC! (He called me 'President.' He will get in trouble with AMLC!)"

Binay continued using humor to downplay allegations he laundered money, and pocketed funds from the construction of the buildings.

“Now that I have referred to you as dear friends, I hope you will not get an instant invitation from the Senate Blue Ribbon subcommittee to prove you are not my dummies, and your companies, not my dummy corporations,” he said.

The Vice President then referred to his friends whose accounts were included in the freeze order. Among the businessmen listed in the freeze order is Alphaland President Mario Oreta, who was part of the alleged fraudulent Boy Scouts of the Philippines-Alphaland agreement on the use of land on Malugay Street and Ayala Avenue Extension.

“Such is the sad fate of some honest and hardworking businesspersons I know. They were publicly ridiculed, intimidated and harassed, and their bank accounts now frozen simply because they happened to be my friends,” Binay said.

The CA issued the freeze order after finding “probable cause” that the bank transactions of Binay, his wife Elenita, son Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin “Junjun” Binay Jr, and alleged dummies were related to “unlawful activities.” The court granted the motion of the AMLC to issue the freeze order for 6 months.

'I save in coins'

Without going into specifics, Binay reiterated the statement of his lawyers and children that his wealth comes from legitimate sources.

Ang pera sa 5 [account] na iyon, ang karamihan ay kinita ko bilang abogado bago pa ako mapunta sa gobyerno. Kinita ng misis ko na nag-doktora. Kinita namin sa negosyo namin,” said Binay, a human rights lawyer during the Marcos regime.

(The money in those 5 accounts, most of that came from my income as a lawyer before I joined government. My wife earned that as a doctor. We earned it from our businesses.)

The Binay political dynasty has ruled Makati, the country's premiere financial district, for over 20 years. When Binay reached the 9-year term limit as mayor, his wife occupied the post, and he again took office. His son took over when he became vice president in 2010.

In its report to the CA, the AMLC said that the Binays' net worth were not commensurate to their declared income, assets, liabilities, and business interests.

Still, Binay maintained that the money in his accounts included savings and inheritance.

“'Di ninyo naitatanong ito ay namana ko sa nanay ko. Hanggang ngayon, nag-iipon pa ako, pa-coins-coins. Iyon ang natutunan ko sa nanay ko, ang lagi kang nag-iipon,” he said.

(You may not know but I inherited this from my mother. Until now, I save money in coins. That's what I learned from my mother: to always save.)

Binay echoed his lawyers in saying that the AMLC included campaign contributions and expenses already declared before the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

The Binay camp maintains that Comelec documents, and the Vice President's Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN), Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) will refute the allegations.

The AMLC though said it used the Binay's SALNs, Securities and Exchange Commission records, and Commission on Audit reports to trace the transactions and links with supposed dummies.

'No reason to back out'

Binay said the freeze order, plunder and graft complains, and various corruption allegations do not weaken his presidential ambitions.

'Pag pumapasok ako sa kung anuman, 'di ako marunong umatras,” he said. “Kung kinakalat nila mga panlalait sa akin, iyong mga kung anu-anong tinatapon sa amin, 'di ito dahilan para ako ay umatras. Tuloy ang laban. Inumpisahan iyan, tatapusin ko.

(When I enter something, I do not know how to back out. If they spread all these insults, whatever allegations they throw against us, these are not enough reason for me to back out. The fight continues. I started this, I will finish it.)

Binay said he was considering Senator Grace Poe as a possible running mate, even after President Benigno Aquino III talked to her about possibly becoming part of the administration tandem in 2016. (READ: Aquino in talks with Grace Poe on 2016 polls)

“We are considering her, among others,” Binay said.

Binay denied talking politics with tycoon Manuel V. Pangilinan, who was also present in the Pasay event.

At this point, the front runner in presidential surveys said he was not ruling out anything or anyone.

Sa pulitika lahat ng 'di mo akalain mangyari, nangyayari eh (In politics, everything that you do not expect to happen, happens).” –