Senate panel recommends arrest of alleged Binay dummies

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate ordered the arrest of the alleged dummy and bag man of Vice President Jejomar Binay a week after the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) questioned the bank transactions of Binay with Gerardo “Gerry” Limlingan Jr.

Limlingan, Binay's financial officer and “dear family friend,” was among 14 people the Senate blue ribbon committee cited in contempt and ordered arrested for snubbing the hearings into corruption allegations against the Binay family.

Senate blue ribbon committee chairman Senator Teofisto Guingona III and sub-committee chairman Aquilino Pimentel III made the announcement on Monday, May 18. Pimentel admitted, however, that since the inquiry started in August 2014, the committee had been unable to locate Limlingan.

Besides Limlingan, those cited in contempt and ordered arrested are:

The committee did not cite in contempt Binay's adviser, University of Makati professor Tomas Lopez, and former Makati City engineer Mario Badillo. The two promised to attend the next hearing on May 28.

The Senate also upheld its previous order to cite in contempt and arrest Binay's longtime secretary and another alleged dummy, Eduviges “Ebeng” Baloloy, Makati assistant city engineer Line Dela Peña, and Bernadette Portollano, corporate secretary of Omni Security.

The panel is investigating the reportedly overpriced Makati City Hall parking building II, and other buildings in Makati, as well as the Binays' alleged lavish estate in Rosario, Batangas, and the supposedly anomalous deal between the Binay-led Boy Scouts of the Philippines and Alphaland. Binay's political rivals continue raising new allegations against the Vice President.

The Vice President rejects the Senate's longest running inquiry, saying it is a tool to derail his 2016 presidential ambitions. He refuses to face the probe despite repeated invitations. Binay remains the front runner in election surveys. 

Previous Senate witnesses tagged Limlingan as the “representative” of Binay in Omni Security Investigation and General Services Incorporated, the security and janitorial company that allegedly cornered hundreds of millions of pesos in contracts yearly from the Makati City government.

Former Makati Vice Mayor Ernesto Mercado, Binay's ally-turned-foe, also testified that he delivered money to Limlingan, representing Binay's alleged kickbacks from city government projects.

In the freeze order it issued last week, the Court of Appeals (CA) cited AMLC findings that Limlingan and Baloloy maintained joint accounts with Binay containing money not commensurate to their income, and net worth.

What happens next?

It remains a question whether the Senate can locate all the resource persons it cited in contempt.

The panel last ordered the arrest of Binay's son, Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin “Junjun” Binay Jr, in January. Binay resisted arrest and after much fanfare and drama, senators eventually decided to let him go on the same day when the mayor refused to testify and answer questions.

The other resource persons ordered arrested were tagged as dummies of the Vice President. Businessman Antonio Tiu is accused of fronting as the owner of the 145-hectare property in Rosario, Batangas known as “Hacienda Binay.” He and his relatives face tax evasion cases.

Yet Tiu maintains that his businesses are legitimate, and his bank transactions are fully documented, and publicly disclosed. His accounts were among those that the CA ordered frozen.

The Chongs are also supposed Binay fronts. They are stockholders of Meriras Realty and Development Corporation linked to a supposed land scam in Makati.

Citing the AMLC report, the CA said that Erlinda Chong was “linked to the birthday cakes supplied by Senator Maria Lourdes Nancy Binay to the senior citizens of Makati.” – Ayee Macaraig/Rappler.com