Just my opinion by Raïssa Robles
Jejomar Binay credits his good fortune to what my satirist hubby Alan refers to as the Vice-President’s “days of swine and roses.”
And Alan is right. Binay’s lawyer Princess Turgano recently explained that it was the Binay family’s piggery and flower businesses that enabled the couple to earn an additional net income of P44.35 million from 1994 to 2010.
But what I want to know is:
How was VP Binay – orphaned as a boy – able to buy two properties at the age of 22 and a third property at the age of 23 — while still studying law at the University of the Philippines College of Law?
Two properties were apparently bought in cash for P14,145 in 1965 and 1966 prices. A third property worth P12,500 was acquired through a mortgage also in 1965.
In 1965, the minimum wage for private employees was P156 a month. A public secondary school principal earned P7,800 a year or P650 a month.
Binay disclosed these three properties and the year he purchased them in the SALN (Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth) he filed in 2012 as the country’s Vice-President.
Because if he can’t explain this thoroughly, then he may be in trouble.
As VP Binay himself stressed during his speech before an assembly of lawyers yesterday, “The only reason I can be removed from office, among others, would be for the violation of the Constitution during my term as Vice President. That is very clear.”
VP Binay is right. The only time another high government official was removed from office due to the violation of the Constitutional provision on the SALN was in 2012. No less than the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Renato Corona, was convicted by a Senate impeachment court for violating Article XI, Section 17 of the 1987 Constitution which states:
Sec. 17. A public officer or employee shall, upon assumption of office and as often thereafter as may be required by law, submit a declaration under oath of his assets, liabilities, and net worth. In the case of the President, the Vice-President, the Members of the Cabinet, the Congress, the Supreme Court, the Constitutional Commissions and other constitutional offices, and officers of the armed forces with general or flag rank, the declaration shall be disclosed to the public in the manner provided by law.”
I only have a copy of VP Binay’s SALN as of December 31, 2011 which he filed in 2012. I am basing my questions and analysis on this SALN as well as on the public declarations of his lawyers.
Please look below at a portion of VP Binay’s 2012 SALN. You can examine the entire SALN from which this portion came at the end of this piece.
Meanwhile, please examine VP Binay’s property disclosures. I have marked with red and blue dots those properties that he said he had acquired before he became mayor of Makati.
VP Binay was born on November 11, 1942. By the time he was 10 or 11, both his parents had died.
He told me in a one-on-one interview conducted on June 29, 2010 that he had a brother and a sister but both died at a young age. So by the age of 10 or 11, VP Binay was an orphan who lived with an uncle.
Binay himself attests in various speeches and interviews that he was cash poor when he was growing up.
He graduated from AB Political Science in 1962 or around the age of 20.
He graduated from the University of the Philippines College of Law in 1967 at age 25. So we can presume that between 1962 and 1967, he was a working law student. As he has said in interviews and as his profile on the Makati website once stated, VP Binay was at that time a college instructor at Philippine Women’s University, St. Scholastica’s College and Philippine College of Commerce.
He also had a stint as a legal officer in the office of a Manila city councilor but I have not been able to ascertain if he did this before or after taking his bar exam.
In any case, we can establish from all these that he earned enough to put himself through law school.
Which is why I would like VP Binay to explain how – based on his 2012 SALN – he was able to buy:
ONE – A residential lot in Alabang Hills for P12,500 in 1964 around the age of 22.
TWO – a residential lot (thru mortgage) in Victoria Homes, Tunasan, San Pedro, Laguna, worth another P12,500 also in 1964 around the age of 22.
THREE – agricultural land for P1,645 in Liang Pilar, Marivieles, Bataan in 1965 around the age of 23.
These three acquisitions mean he had at least P14,145 in cash to pay for two properties. On top of that, he had left-over money to pay off the mortgage on a P12,500 lot.
Nowadays, P14,145 in cash is not a lot of money.
But in those days it was.
Three documents can give us an indication of the value of that amount around that time when VP Binay was a law student and he bought those lots.
The first document is a petition for citizenship of a certain Chinese national named Luis Yap to the Supreme Court. This case showed that Luis Yap, a secondary teacher in a private school, earned a salary of around P200 a month. The Supreme Court, by the way, ruled against giving Yap citizenship on the grounds that he was not earning enough. You can read the decision by clicking on this link.
The second document is Republic Act No. 4180 which raised the minimum wage in 1965. This law required private employers in non-agricultural enterprises to pay P6 a day. Even assuming a six-day work week, it means the minimum wage at that time came to about P156 a month. You can read RA 4180 by clicking on this link.
And the third document is Republic Act 4477 which took effect on July 1, 1965. It fixed the salary rates of officials in cities and provinces. As I said, thislaw fixed the salary of a secondary school principal in a first class city at P7,800 a year or P650 a month. You can read it by clicking on this link.
Let’s be generous and assume that VP Binay got paid more than the private school teacher but less than the state school principal – that is, between P200 and P650 a month – or around P425 a month. This would translate to P5,100 a year, before tax and before deducting all expenses including food and transport. At this salary rate, he would have still needed nearly nearly three years to earn P14,145 in cash to pay for the two lots he had bought in 1964 and 1965. Unless, of course, he had sold some inherited land and then used the cash to buy the two properties.
However, please note that Binay bought his first property only two years after graduating from AB Political Science.
In short, the numbers do not seem to add up.
VP Binay bought a fourth property while he was in and out of jail
A fourth property purchase, that VP Binay disclosed in his 2012 SALN, occurred in 1977. It was a more substantial purchase – P106,800 for a residential lot in Caong Street, San Antonio Village Makati. It is the original lot on which his mansion now stands. It is where I interviewed him in 2010.
How was VP Binay able to raise P106,800 in cash to buy this property? Did he sell or swap any land? Did a client pay him a sizable fee?
I raise this question – which I really hope VP Binay will take the time out to explain – because the purchase was done at the height of Martial Law. He told me during my interview with him that he was jailed “ten times” during that period. Being an enemy of the state is hardly a come-on for paying clients who want to win court cases.
In addition, VP Binay bought his first Caong property at a time when he had increasing family obligations – three of his five children were being born in succession, two years apart of each other.
Maria Lourdes Nancy Binay-Angeles was born on May 12, 1973.
Mar-Len Abigail Binay- Campos was born Dec 12, 1975.
Jejomar Erwin Junjun Binay Jr. was born July 12, 1977 – the same year when VP Binay said he had bought the Caong property, according to his 2012 SALN.
The Binays’ fourth child came two years later. Marita Angeline Binay-Alcantara was born May 12, 1979.
Only the youngest, Joanna Marie Bianca Binay – born November 22, 1988 – arrived when Binay was already mayor of Makati.
I have long thought that VP Binay was highly qualified for the presidency because of his strong administrative background; his out-of-the-box way of thinking; his ability to get things done; his being street-smart; and his charisma with the poor.
I have fond memories of Binay.
My first memory of Binay was that of a dark-skinned man of short stature wearing a crumpled, cheap barong to court between 1981 and 1982. He looked anything but rich. I was covering the ‘We Forum’ trial for Business Day then and he was one of the lawyers along with Rene Saguisag, Joker Arroyo, Martiniano Vivo, Augusto “Bobbit” Sanchez and my father. I made sure never to interview my dad to avoid conflict of interest.
It was fun covering the trial because the lawyers on both sides were all witty. I think the state prosecutor was Jose Flaminiano who later became President Joseph Estrada’s defense lawyer. Every court session was a battle of wits and at one point Binay was fined by the judge for – of all things – laughing out loud in court.
My next memory of Binay was when he was appointed Officer-in-Charge (OIC) mayor of Makati City by then Local Governments Secretary Aquilino Pimentel Jr. Binay – unlike Pimentel’s OIC in San Juan who had to deal with a belligerent Mayor Joseph Estrada – had no problem taking over Nemesio Yabut because the latter suddenly died during the People Power revolt in late February 1986.
Binay greeted me warmly and then told me with a wink in his eye – “Tingnan mo to, o.” (Look at this.)
I didn’t know what he meant by “this” because all I saw was the wall behind the mayor’s executive desk.
The secret bedroom
One section of the wall turned out to be a hidden door that opened to a bedroom. You would not know the door was there unless you were told about it. I remember that the bedroom was a cross between a lady’s boudoir and a hotel room. It was not something you would associate with the mayor’s office, let alone Makati’s kingpin Yabut who was known for his tough, macho ways.
Ah, I thought – having previously met one of Yabut’s mistresses who by the way turned out to be very nice – this must have been Yabut’s trysting place.
I distinctly recall OIC Mayor Binay telling me then that he would have that bedroom removed because it had no place in a mayor’s office. He gave me the impression that he was somewhat scandalized by it.
Years later, when I read reports about Binay taking over Yabut’s extensive political network, behaving like Yabut did and allegedly demanding payoffs from contractors, I could not believe it. I did not want to believe it.
I wanted to know Binay’s side first.
This was the secondary reason why I sought him out for an interview in June 2010. The primary reason was to do a personality profile of him for South China Morning Post (HK).
I have interviewed a number of billionaire businessmen and have asked them how they started out on their road to riches. These included Jollibee owner Tony Tan Caktiong, Megaworld’s Andrew Tan and Manuel Villar. In all these interviews, they were able to pinpoint to me the events that enabled them to get rich.
For instance, former Senator Villar told me how a business loss became his ticket to fortune. He said that he had always dreamt of becoming an entrepreneur one day. He recalled that while he was working as a financial analyst for the Private Development Corporation of the Philippines (PDCP), he was also selling fish to the cafeteria in the building where the PDCP was located. Unfortunately, he had advanced some P18,000 worth of fish to the cafeteria owner, who could not pay him back.
Instead of quarreling with the owner or writing off the loss, Villar came up with a form of debt swap and write-down. “Sabi ko bayaran mo na lang ako ng chits. (I told the restaurant to simply pay me in chits).”
Villar had P18,000 pesos worth of chits printed out. He then sold each chit for P1.20 to fellow PDCP employees. In turn the cafeteria owner agreed to accept each chit as payment for its P1.50 lunch. Villar was in effect writing down debt by 20%.
At least, he told me, he was able to recoup his capital. With that money as well as what he saved from his salary, Villar bought a truck to deliver gravel and sand. And that’s how he started out in the construction business. And the rest is history.
I guess when I interviewed VP Binay in 2010 I had a similar expectation that he would give me a similar clear cut story on how he made his first million.
All I know is that in his first year in office as mayor – his first steady job – Binay’s lawyers said in a press conference that the VP already had a net worth of P2,527,724.85 (with Assets of P3,510,013.85 and Liabilities of P982,406).
How he acquired P2.5 million worth of assets at the height of the financial crisis that started in 1983 and extended all the way to 1992 while being a prominent oppositionist and a father of four remains a mystery.
He hasn’t explained that yet.
During my 2010 interview with him, I was also saddened to know that Binay not only kept Yabut’s bedroom. He had another one built in the now controversial “world class” building. Because Yabut’s bedroom, at least to me, was a symbol of what a public servant should not be.
But that’s just my opinion.
Previously, I wrote how in 2010, VP Binay had told me he had bought – not leased – the land for his piggery.
Pls. also take the time out to read this related story – The trouble with Mar
Next, I will discuss what VP Binay did to undermine his own dream for the presidency.