By Jeffrey Damicog
Former Budget Secretary Florencio Abad and former Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Secretary Rogelio Singson could be held liable for their alleged involvement in an P8.7-billion road right of way (RROW) scam in General Santos City.
“Based on their signatures in the documents submitted to the NBI and on the sworn statements of our witness, some high-ranking officials of the previous administration may have potential liabilities like former DPWH Secretary Rogelio Singson who apparently approved and requested the release of payment of fake RROW claims,” Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said in a statement.
Abad who “apparently approved the release of payment for illegal RROW claims as requested by Singson may also face potential criminal liability,” he added.
The Justice Secretary said the scam was revealed by a male witness involved in the scheme which is now being investigated by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI)
“Consequently, I have instructed the NBI to continue its case build-up in order to further strengthen the case which most likely will include several high ranking officials of the Aquino administration,” he added.
The Justice secretary explained the syndicate involved in the scam–which begun way back in 2009– submits fake land titles of non-existent owners to allow them to claim just compensation from the DPWH for the expropriation of lands which will be occupied in various government road projects.
“From 2009, when the syndicate started to operate, the members of this syndicate were able to process more than 300 folders containing fake road-right-of-way amounting to more or less P8.7 billion,” he learned.
Aguirre said the witness was able to present to him original copies of all of the 300 fake sets of documents.
“We have information that one claim for ‘just compensation’ amounts to P29 million,” he noted.
The witness named several other persons involved in syndicate: Wilma Mamburam, Col. Chino Mamburan, Merceditas Dumlao, and Nelson Ti.
“Our witness further revealed that Nelso Ti, the financier of the group is a close relative of Domingo Lee, Philippine Envoy to China, and is supposedly close to former President Benigno Aquino III,” Aguirre noted.
The witness also revealed the syndicate was able to accomplish the deed with the help of several public officials from the DPWH, Bureau of Internal Revenue, the City Assessor’s Office of General Santos, the Registry of Deeds, the Commission on Audit and the Regional Trial Courts whom he identified as having participated in the processing, approval, and eventual release of payments to cover the dubious claims.
Aguirre declined to identify the witness but promised to present him and his sworn statement before the media next week.
The Justice Secretary recounted he first met the witness around three months ago and has been on the run since then.
The witness managed to meet again Aguirre again last November 20 and has been placed provisionally under the Witness Protection Program.