climate change

Aguirre tags Singson, Abad in P8.7-B road scam

Lian Buan
Aguirre tags Singson, Abad in P8.7-B road scam
'The accusation is baseless and therefore not true. I and the DBM were never part of the negotiations for that transaction,' says former budget chief Florencio Abad

MANILA, Philippines – Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said on Friday, November 24, that the Department of Justice (DOJ) is investigating the liabilities of former Cabinet officials of the Aquino administration in an P8.7 billion scam involving fake road rights of way.

Former public secretary Rogelio Singson and former budget secretary Florencio  Abad “may face potential criminal liability,” Aguirre said in a news briefing on Friday.

He said he has a witness who is coordinating with the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), which he has tasked to conduct a case buildup.

The witness, a private citizen, is supposedly in possession of documents that would show that syndicates earned billions of pesos when they submitted fake titles to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to claim compensation for the lands used for government projects.

Private land owners whose properties are utilized by the government, mainly the DPWH for road projects, are compensated.

Aguirre said the witness has evidence of the modus operandi which claimed compensation from the government using the names of non-existent persons. This relates to a national highway construction in General Santos City.

‘Approved fund releases’

He tagged Singson and Abad in the alleged scam for approving the fund releases. 

And sabi ng witness, aware sila (The witness said they were aware [the claims were fake]),” said Aguirre.

Asked if the witness also accused Abad and Singson of earning from the scam, Aguirre said, “That’s the complication – they really earned.”

He added that there might be a possibility that the lands really belong to the government, and not private lands. If there are real private claimants, Aguirre urged them to speak out and join the case.

Aguirre said his witness is different from Danilo Hassan, who filed a similar complaint against Singson and Abad before the Office of the Ombudsman in October, as reported by The Manila Times. 

Aguirre said his witness named the following individuals: Wilma Mamburam, Colonel Chino Mamburan, Merceditas Dumlao, and Nelson Ti.

The justice chief said the witness told him that Ti is a “close relative” of “former Philippine envoy to China” Domingo Lee, an Aquino appointee.  

“Our witness further revealed that Mr Nelson Ti, the financier of the group, is a close relative of Domingo Lee, Philippine envoy to China, and [Lee] is supposedly close to former President Benigno Aquino III,” Aguirre said.

Aguirre later clarified that Aquino’s and Lee’s links to Ti are only circumstantial, and that “nothing in the documents” point to their involvement in the scam

Lee, a family friend of Aquino, was a nominee for Philippine envoy to China but he was not able to serve the post as he was bypassed thrice by the Commission on Appointments.

‘Baseless accusation’

Singson declined to comment on the allegation, for now, saying he would have to know the full story first before issuing a statement. “I’m sorry I don’t know what it’s about so I cannot comment yet,” he said.

Abad said the accusations are baseless, and defered to the DPWH for questions about the claim.

“The accusation is baseless and therefore not true. I and the DBM were never part of the negotiations for that transaction. The DPWH will be in the best position to shed light on the issue. If I’m not mistaken, that case is already pending with the Ombudsman,” Abad said.

The allegations against former officials of the Aquino administration are the latest in the Duterte administration’s claims of anomalies supposedly committed by Aquino officials.

Before he held the news briefing on the alleged scam, Aguirre announced that he had tasked the NBI to form a special task force to investigate Aquino and the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP)

On Tuesday, November 21, the Department of Transportation filed a plunder complaint filed before the Ombudsman against a number of former Cabinet officials of the Aquino administration over the alleged anomalous contracts for the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 during their time. 

In June, Aguirre former a special task force to reinvestigate the multi-million-peso pork barrel scam to correct the “miscarriage of justice” in the probe carried out by the Aquino administration. The justice chief had considered turning alleged pork scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles as a state witness in the case.

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Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email or tweet @lianbuan.