P15-B lost, 105,000 families victimized
MANILA, Philippines – Aman Futures Group cashed out almost half a million pesos everyday from an account in Malaysia when they started earning billions from investors, Pagadian Mayor Samuel Co said Tuesday.
Co said the daily withdrawals placed the investment group under the radar of the Anti-Money Laudering Council.
"Everyday they are outing P300,000-P400,000 a day. Nasa Malaysia ang mga pera ni Aman,” he said.
Co said he has information that most of the suspects in the Aman Futures scam are still in Mindanao but are moving from province to province to avoid detection.
He also said he does not know Donna Coyme, the Aman official who is being eyed as a state witness by the Department of Justice. "I do not know her at all,” he said.
He said the only time he encountered Coyme was when she personally brought the cheques of investors to Pagadian City Hall after the company shut down last September.
Zamboanga del Sur Gov. Antonio Cerilles, meanwhile, said that based on their latest monitoring, the firm actually duped some 105,000 families in his province alone, higher than the initially projected 15,000 victims.
The governor said that based on their estimates, Aman Futures got P15 billion in investments instead of the initial estimate of P12 billion.
He said he met mayors of different towns and confirmed the figures. He also warned that criminality may rise after a large number of residents lost their savings.
"Seventy-percent ng aming households ang naapektuhan,” he said.
Co should take blame
Cerilles said Co is among those primary responsible for the scam after he issued a temporary business permit for Aman Futures Group this year. He said Mayor Co vouched for the integrity of Aman.
"Binigyan ng lisensya eh. They were assured na safe investment ito,” he said.
Co, however, denied the allegation and said he actually cancelled Aman’s business permit as early as April. He later issued a temporary business permit for the firm pending completion of the firm’s requirements.
Both Cerilles and Co admitted Aman was under their radar in the first few months of its operation.
"Honestly, hindi ko napansin ito that early," Cerilles said.
"They started very small-scale,” added Co.
‘Everybody was earning’
In a memorandum dated June 4, Co ordered the then Chief of Police P/Supt. Kenneth Mission to investigate the continued operation of Aman despite lack of necessary legal authority to do so.
However, the police didn't lift a finger against Aman.
"I have a problem of closing it down because the [Philippine National Police] was afraid, and they say there are no complainants," Co said.
PNP Region 9 Dir C/Supt. Napoleon Estilles said they will be filing criminal and administrative charges against Mission, former Provincial Police Chief Sr. Supt William Manzan, and 12 other policemen for allegedly protecting the Aman Futures Group.
Co said that after failing to activate the police, he wrote Vice Mayor Romeo Pulmones and the Sangguniang Panglungsod to conduct an investigation.
Like in the PNP, Co said his order fell on deaf ears.
"It's so unfair to put the blame on me. Tao na ang kalaban ko dito, pati konseho walang nagawa,” he said, noting that everybody was joining and earning from Aman Futures until the company closed down in September.
Co said he formally requested Aman, through its president Fernando Luna, to submit proper documents and certification to his office.
He said he gave Aman a 60-day temporary business permit pending the completion of requirements.
Co denied that he was close to Aman owner Manuel Amalilio after pictures circulated on the Internet showing them riding a luxury vehicle.
Co said his meeting with Amalilio when the photos were taken was an accident. He said he was supposed to meet a friend whom he didn't know was also with Amalilio.
He confirmed to ABS-CBN that the pictures were taken at the Range Rover store in Manila which Amalilio used as his second office.
He said Amalilio has 8 Range Rover vehicles, a Lamborghini, a Ferrari, and a Jaguar.
Mayor also lost money
The mayor said he tried to convince his constituents to stop investing in Aman through his radio program, press conferences, and even in his daily rounds in the city.
"I have warned people so many times,” he said.
However, he also admitted that he invested his own money in Aman Futures.
“I did invest also. Everybody was investing. Our (political) opponent is already investing, but I did not use my name sa investment," he said.
Cerilles asked the Commission on Audit to immediately look into the books of local government, especially Pagadian, to see if parts of their internal revenue allotment funds were used as investments to Aman.
Co said it is impossible for him to use the local government fund since there are 80 people in his treasury office that would have known about the transaction.
"Hindi mo matatakpan ang 80 na bibig dyan,” he said.