By MB Online and Jun Ramirez
Former president Benigno Aquino III and some of his allies face plunder and graft charges for an allegation based on a viral post that he allowed the transport of 3,500 metric tons of gold worth $141.3 billion or P6.8 trillion to a Thai company in December 2014.
Lawyer Fernando Perito and CPA Rogelio Cantoria, who claimed to be a former examiner of the BSP, jointly filed the complaint against Aquino as well as the following:
- Sen. Leila de Lima, former justice secretary
- Mar Roxas, former interior and local government secretary
- Cesar Purisima, former finance secretary
- Amando Tetangco Jr., Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas governor
- Lorelei Fernandez, former BSP treasury department chief dealer
- Sen. Franklin Drilon, former Senate president
They based their complaint on “Circular No. 49,” which was supposedly issued by the monetary board of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas on December 22, 2014.
The said circular supposedly authorized the Centennial Energy Company Limited in Thailand to produce and issue U.S. dollar notes totaling $3 trillion by virtue of section 50 of Republic Act 7655.
The money, they said, was supposed to fund various humanitarian projects in member-states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
The circular also came with a certification that spelled out the transfer of 3,500 metric tons of gold bars under the name of “Ferdinand E. Marcos” to the Union Bank of Switzerland. De Lima, Roxas, Tetangco, Drilon and Purisima allegedly signed the certification.
According to the complainants, the gold was supposed to be turned over by the Swiss bank to the Thai company to back up and guarantee the printing of $3 trillion in U.S. currency.
However, they said the gold was intercepted while on its way to Bangkok by soldiers of the United Nation Office on Drugs and Crime, headed by Gen. Patrick Lami, which they described as a U.N. recovery officer of ill-gotten assets. Lami, they said, transferred the precious metal to Barcelona, Spain where it is now stored at the International Bank of Commerce.
They said the Ombudsman should now exert all efforts for the return of the gold to the country, explaining that the government-owned gold “should not have been taken surreptitiously by respondents… and should be made to answer by the honorable Ombudsman.”
They said the gold billions were intended and applied for nefarious purposes, “all appropriated by respondents which they used to finance their political campaigns.”
“The Ombudsman must not delay the investigation of this case, it being of national interest and for economic survival of the country to say the least, this is the grandmother of all plunders involving $141 billion, or trillion of pesos,” the complainants added.
They said they were able to get the copies of confidential documents kept secretly at the BSP and Malacañang due to the freedom of information (FOI) directive of President Rodrigo Duterte.
Perito said he is not a political supporter of Duterte but of former vice president Jejomar Binay, who lost in the May 2016 elections.
Various inconsistencies and inaccuracies cropped up upon perusal of the supposed complaint.
It first appeared as a post on a Facebook page named “Kingdom Filipina Hacienda Sovereign Host Nation,” which was picked up by other blogs, Facebook pages and fake news sites.
The circular itself is non-existent in the central bank’s circulars database. BSP issued five circulars in December 2014, both of which bearing three digits starting with “8”:
- Circular No. 865 (December 22, 2014)—Amendments to Section X101 of the Manual of Regulations for Banks
- Circular No. 864 (December 22, 2014)—Amendments to the Regulations Governing the Derivatives Activities of Thrift Banks
- Circular No. 863 (December 29, 2014)—Replacement and Demonetization of Bangko Sentral New Design Series Banknotes (5-, 10-, 20-, 50-, 100-, 200-, 500- and 1000-Piso Denominations)
- Circular No. 862 (December 17, 2014)—Amendments to Pertinent Sections of the Manual of Regulations for Banks (MORB) and Manual of Regulations for Non-Bank Financial Institutions (MORNBFI) on Examination by the Bangko Sentral
- Circular No. 861 (December 1, 2014)—Additional Eligibility Requirement for Rediscounting Loan Availments
U.S. banknotes are only printed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing of the U.S. treasury department.
Bangkok-based Centennial Energy, its company website states, is an “international multi-billion dollar project investment and development firm” that funds large-scale development and humanitarian projects for developing countries.
Also, no such “Gen. Patrick Lami” from the U.N. or even an International Bank of Commerce in Barcelona turned up in online search. The bank, however, is an American institution based in Laredo, Texas.
Even the document from the UBS bank shows a logo different from the Swiss bank’s official insignia.
While Republic Act 7655, section 50 of which served as the legal basis for the BSP’s authorization of outsourcing dollar printing, is a 1993 four-section law increasing the minimum wage of househelpers.
The complainants also pertained to De Lima as former “finance secretary” and Roxas as former “nutrition and local government” secretary.
The camp of the former president immediately dismissed the new complaint and asked not to dignify it because of the inconsistencies.
In a GMA News report, lawyer and Aquino administration spokesperson Abigail Valte said: “How does one answer a complaint so patently absurd on its face? It defies logic, which is not surprising since it came from a fake news site.”
“The blatant disregard for simple facts is telling of the provenance of the allegations. Sana ay hindi na piliting pasagutin pa ang dating pangulo, dahil napaalala sa amin ang kasabihang ito sa Tagalog: ang pumatol sa baliw, mas baliw,” she implored. (With reports from the Philippine News Agency)
Tags: ASEAN, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, Benigno Aquino III, Centennial Energy Company Limited, dollar notes, Fernando Perito, gold, graft, Manila Bulletin, Noynoy Aquino, nutrition and local government, Office of the Ombudsman, plunder, PNoy faces plunder graft based on viral ‘gold transfer’ claims, Rogelio Cantoria, Switzerland, Thailand