Roberto Catapang Jr., who has been provisionally admitted to the Witness Protection Program (WPP), said Eldon Cruz, the husband of Aquino’s elder sister Ballsy Aquino-Cruz, had endorsed the release of payments for the supposed bogus RROW claims.
“Actually, talk of the town ito sa DPWH (Department of Public Works and Highways). Alam yan ng central office. Taga Manila, kapamilya ng opisyal (Actually, this is the talk of the town at the DPWH. The central office knows about this. This person is from Manila and is related to an official),” Catapang told reporters during a press conference on Monday afternoon.
“Apparently, they were using his name always, not just a few times. Sorry sir. It’s Sir Eldon Cruz,” Catapang said.
Catapang said the properties were covered by specious land titles and other documents which he and other members of their group had manufactured in connivance with corrupt government employees.
He, however, admitted that he never met Cruz nor saw him speak with public officials to help facilitate multimillion-peso transactions at the DPWH and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).
Catapang also presented to the media a copy of a supposed letter signed by Cruz dated January 2011 addressed to former DPWH Secretary Rogelio Singson, requesting his immediate endorsement to the DBM for the release of the funds for the bogus titles.
He said he obtained a copy of the letter from Wilma Mamburam, one of the alleged masterminds of the scam, when he was still dealing with her group from 2009 to 2012.
Catapang said he saw at least two more letters of endorsement “signed” by Aquino’s brother-in-law, with one of them bearing a letterhead of Malacanang.
Catapang told reporters that the scam covers the entire Region 12 and not only General Santos City.
The modus operandi was discovered in 2011, prompting the syndicate to stop the operations but the scam continued in General Santos City.
In fact, Catapang said some PHP500 million was released by former DBM Secretary Florencio Abad in December 2013 upon the request of Singson for payment of RROW involving fake land titles.
Singson allegedly made the request on December 23, 2013 and was approved by Abad on December 27, 2013.
Abad, Singson, and 41 others have already been placed on on the DOJ’s immigration lookout bulletin order.
DOJ Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said Cruz’s name may be added on the list once the signature on the document is verified by the the National Bureau of Investigation, which is conducting a fact-finding probe into the scam.
Aguirre earlier said the members of the syndicate would submit fake titles in the name of non-existent persons and then secure payment using fake land titles.
He said the syndicate was able to process over 300 RROW claims including one amounting to P29 million.
Aside from Wilma Mamaburan, other individuals linked by Catapang to the scam are Col. Chino Mamburan, Merceditas Dumlao and Nelson Ti, the group’s alleged financier and a “close friend” of former President Aquino.
Ti is also said to be a relative of former Philippine ambassador to China Domingo Lee.
Catapang said the falling out between him and the syndicate happened because the group no longer needed him, adding the syndicate wanted to directly deal with the government agencies in the processing of the claims.
He also said he decided to disclose to the government his knowledge about the scam due to fears for his life, having survived an ambush attempt in 2015.
Aguirre said former Assemblyman Rogelio Garcia of South Cotabato told him during the 2017 San Beda College of Law Alumni homecoming at the Manila Peninsula Hotel in Makati last Friday that he is also a victim of the scam.
“The property of Assemblyman Garcia, around 7,000 square meters, was subjected to the modus operandi of this RROW scam,” Aguirre said.
Garcia was supposed to join the press conference but begged off due to conflict of schedule.
“In due time, we will obtain the sworn statement of Assemblyman Garcia and perhaps we can present him to you [media],” Aguirre said.
Aguirre said that the allegations in the sworn statement of Catapang including the amount taken from government coffers, are serious allegations that should be looked into in line with the President Duterte’s directive to wage war on corruption, then and now.
“I am reiterating once again my call to all who have personal knowledge of this RROW scam to come forward and to tell the truth. When the government is defrauded, it is really the Filipino people who are really defrauded. Our office is open to you, we will listen to you and more importantly, we will protect you via the WPP,” Aguirre noted. -PNA