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Pat C. Santos

NBI files plunder raps vs ex-DPWH chief, 33 others

Thursday, 22 March 2018 00:00 Published in Headlines

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI)  yesterday filed plunder  charges against former Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Secretary Rogelio Singson at the office of the Ombudsman in connection with the Road Right of Way (RRoW) Project scam in General Santos City.
NBI- NCR  Regional Director Cesar Bacani at a press conference held at the agency office at Taft Avenue, Manila yesterday said,  that along with Singson, graft charges include 20 to 33  former and current DPWH officials and employees and private individuals  have been slapped with cases for violation of Republic Act (RA) 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
The investigation on the RRoW project anomaly was jointly conducted by the NBI-Central Mindanao Regional Office (CEMRO) in Region 12 and the NB-National Capital Region (NBI-NCR) which took 6 months.
It was through a letter from self-confessed former member of a syndicate that includes the RRoW project whistle-blower Roberto Catapang to Department of Justice Secretary Vitalliano Aguirre exposing the alleged RRoW Project scam in Regions 12 and 13.
Catapang, now under the wings of the DoJ’s Witness Protection Program, confessed that he was a former member of a syndicate in cahoots with DPWH officials in perpetrating the RRoW project in Region 12.
He said that members of the syndicate in collusion with DPWH officials and employees fabricate and submit fake documents such as Land Titles (TCT/OCT) Special Power of Attorney (SPA), Tax Declarations, Appraisal Reports and other supporting documents for submission to the DPWH.
Once cleared by the government agencies concerned the claims for just compensation are processed by the DPWH officials for a fee exclusive of their share in the proceeds of bogus claims.
Catapang stated that the syndicate is  allegedly headed by a certain Wilma Mamburam, whose participation was to collect “just compensation from the affected by the construction of the National roads.
He also named another group, the Paloso group that is in charge of the fabrication of documents for the syndicate like the TCTs, Certified Approved Plan, Parcellary Map, Linear Diagram, road and access certification, regional attachments, technical description of lots, among others.
In the course of the investigation, the NBI team was able to establish that the approval of bogus claims was so certain, despite tedious process and numerous approvals from various government offices due to monetary considerations.
The NBI said the conspiracy was discovered among DPWH, CoA(Commission on Audit), City Assessor’s office and the LRA.
In the seven disbursement vouchers provided by the DPWH to the NBI out of the 50 vouchers requested, the nine claims for compensation of the seven claimants were paid in full in the amount of P255,549.000.00 in 5 tranches. However, the supporting documents such as identification cards of Philhealth Postal ID’s claimants, TCTs, Tax declarations, City appraisal reports, City treasurer’s certification on Real Property tax receipts, among others, that were attached to the claims when verified by the NBI with concerned government agencies were found to be all spurious.
In the charges filed by the NBI at the office of the Ombudsman based on material facts and pieces of evidence gathered, the NBI recommended the filing of charges for plunder with a recommendation of forfeiture proceedings against the named individuals and for violation of R.A. 3019 or Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
In an earlier report late in November 2017, Catapang implicated Eldon Cruz, the brother-in-law of former President Benigno Aquino, in the alleged P8.7-billion road right-of-way scam. He said Cruz’s  name was frequently used by the syndicate in seeking compensation for RROW intended for rightful owners who were affected by the construction of a national highway in General Santos City.
Cruz’s son Jiggy called his father’s implication in the alleged scam “absurd and ridiculous.” He said his father’s supposed signature on the letter shown by Catapang to the DoJ was faked.
Aside from Singson, also included in the complaint were: Wilma O. Mamburan, whom the NBI identified as the manager and leader of the syndicate; Nelson Ti, the alleged financier of the operation; Col. Chino Mamburan; Mercedita Dumlao; Evelyn Paloso; Rudy Ong; and Roberto T. Catapang, who was earlier named as state witness.
Likewise named were members of the ROW committee namely David L. Padlan, Hadji Ibrahim Marohom, Atty. Faisal A. Padate, Tomas M. Rodriguez and Siniloan T. Macarambon.
Also named as respondents were the late Rodel L. Unos, an engineer who conducted the filed verification, inspection and validation of a report on the owners of the lots.
Also included in the complaint were Ansare M. Busran, Reynaldo S. Tamayo, Noraisa U. Abdullah, Julieta P. Marundan, Nassef A. Papandayan, Laureano Suan Jr., Subar S. Diron, Israel I. Balolong, Roger A. Oducayen, Edgar G. Pampanga, Carmencita Talub, Elmina P . Buenbrazo, and Engr. Ser John Pastrana who heads the Land Registration Authority (LRA)’s Micrographics Division.
It was Pastrana who allegedly issued a certification stating that the titles were authentic.
Also named were two lawyers who notarized the spurious claims, Atty. Jose Valentin and Bonifacio Doria, and attorneys in fact and persons who claimed to be actual owners of the properties namely Paul P. Bagio. Marisa Seguirre, William P. Uy. Marie Villamarin, and Mary Ann Joyce.
The facts of the case were primarily built around the admissions of Catapang who claimed to have acted as a conduit of the Mamburan and Paloso Groups, allegedly behind the RROW scam.
NBI Deputy Director for Regional Operations Services Antonio Pagatpat said the 34 respondents connived with one another to amass government funds.
Used as the basis of the complaint were the nine claims worth P255.54 million for “just compensation” for certain properties.
The claims were for the alleged properties in Barangay Lagao, General Santos City, which would have been affected by the construction of the Digos-Makar-Buayan National Road.
On the possible involvement in the alleged syndicate of former Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Secretary Florencio Abad and former President Benigno Aquino III’s brother-in-law, Eldon Cruz, the NBI said the investigation is still ongoing for the remaining 291 claims in Region 12.
  How the RROW scam works
In a press conference, Pagatpat and NBI-National Capital Region head Bacani bared that Singson “requested payments of the claimants based on the spurious documents submitted by the regional DPWH” from then Budget Secretary  Abad.
Based on the NBI report, Singson purportedly “declared that the transfer certificates of title (TCT) will be transferred in the name of the Republic after payment of 50 percent of the price but no TCTs were transferred,” and ordered the release of the amount in favor of the bogus claimants.
“The DPWH as a rule ensures that the payment for lots should be effected only after the corresponding deed of sale had already been registered with the Registry of Deeds and the transfer of title was made in favor of the Republic,” the NBI recommendation for prosecution pointed out.
The NBI added that its  investigation showed that the syndicate manufactured fake supporting documents such as tax declarations and DENR reports as well fake personal credentials such as bogus PhilHealth IDs to back the fake claims.
The complaint is the initial case which arose from the probe of the scam uncovered last year when it was announced by Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II announced the scheme by the Mamburan and Paloso Group could reach up to 300 claims amounting to PHP8.7 billion.
“(T)he nine disbursement vouchers supported by certificates of title were all spurious. This is the first nine vouchers that were given to us by the Commission on Audit,” Pagatpat said.
Catapang also claimed that he brings documents to Unos at the Planning Department of DPWH Region 12.
“Apart from falsifying documents, the syndicate used bogus names (non existing persons) and persons of friends/relatives of the members of the syndicates as claimants. The alleged bogus claimants allegedly executed SPAs in favor of Mamburan or her dummies,” the NBI said.
“The approval of the bogus claims was so certain, despite the tedious process and numerous approvals from various government offices due to monetary considerations. The syndicate allegedly has connections at DPWH, CoA, City Assessor’s Office and LRA,” they added.      With PNA

Impossible to postpone Bgy, SK polls — Sotto

Thursday, 22 March 2018 00:00 Published in Metro

“Impossible to postpone the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabatan (SK) election for lack of time.”
This was the view expressed by Sen. Vicente Sotto III on Barangay and SK election postponement scheduled on May 14 after the House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved it last March 19.
Appearing at the weekly “Kapihan sa Manila Bay” media forum, Sotto said their last schedules of Senate work will be on March 23 and they will be on recess and will resume on May 15.
“It is impossible for the Senate to act on the postponement of the election due to time constraint and there is still a little long procedural process where hearings on pro and anti will be scheduled as well as the submission of protest in case there is. We will be in recess after March 23 and to be back on May 15 and the election is scheduled on May 14,” Sotto said.
The House of Representatives voted on Monday, March 19, to postpone the Barangay and SK elections for the 3rd time under the Duterte administration.
Voting 164-27, the House approved an earlier panel consensus to postpone the elections, scheduled in May 2018, to October 2018. (The House originally counted a 211-29 vote, then had it corrected.)
The election was set in 2016, but this was moved to 2017. It was then moved another time to May 2018, with allies of President  Duterte citing the alleged danger of drug money infiltrating the local election as a solid reason.
This time, proponents of the 3rd postponement are arguing that a postponement would help in the shift to a federal system of government, since an envisioned plebiscite can be conducted simultaneously with the village and youth polls.

Erap joins LMP’s call for federalism

Wednesday, 21 March 2018 00:00 Published in Metro

The problem of the unfair distribution of funds between the local government and national government will be the main issue of aggressive discussion in the three-day League of Municipalities of the Philippines (LMP) 2nd General Assembly now being held at the Manila Hotel with Manila Mayor Joseph “Erap” Estrada as guest speaker.
President Duterte is expected to speak before the assembly today, March 21, the second day of the League’s national assembly.
During the presidential elections of 2016, Duterte passionately campaign for Federalism, saying it is the only way to turn around the supposedly defective system in place.
In the Federalism setup, the local resources are theirs to benefit from.
“If it is P100, you get P30, give it to the Federal government, you retain P70,” Duterte repeatedly said during the 2016 presidential campaign which he won decisively.
The 1,400 members of the LMP led by its president, Mayor Maria Fe Villar-Brondial, said they will issue an official statement urging Congress to prioritize amendments in the 1987 Constitution to change into a federal form of government.
In his welcome address, Estrada said he supports the LMP’s move to make Federalism happen as he took note of the assembly’s theme: “Pederalismo: Ngayon Na!”
As to why he supports Federalism, Estrada said he fully knows the problems of a local chief executive.
“I had nearly two decades of experience in leading the now progressive city of San Juan. Alam na alam ko ang mga problemang kinakaharap ninyo dahil ganun din ang hinarap ko ng halos dalawang dekada,” he said.
Even during his presidency in 1998, Estrada said he was committed to empower the local government units.
“I can recall that in August 2000, I even made the following announcement: ‘The Local Chief Executives must be the shepherds who must lead their communities towards a better future.”
Estrada explained he issued that statement following a decision of the Supreme Court concerning the Internal Revenue Allotment, a mandatory allocation which is due to all local government units.
“I believed it then, and believe it now: Tayo ang mga pinuno na gagabay sa ating komunidad tungo sa isang mas magandang bukas. Ngunit magkakatotoo ang lahat ng ito kapag ang pondong nakalaan para sa mga komunidad ay mabibigay tulad ng dapat,” Estrada said.
Estrada added he firmly trusts that this will happen under President Duterte who completely understands the local chief executives’ concerns.
Duterte had been a mayor of Davao City for 23 years.
“There’s finally a light at the end of the tunnel. May masisilayan na tayong liwanag sa landas tungo sa Federalismo.”
He, however, advised the delegates to be cautious in the discussion and debates concerning the shift from presidential to a federal type of government.
“But with President Duterte’s firm grasp of the situation—our situation— then there is every reason to hope that, indeed, change is coming,” Estrada said. 


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