Raps vs Pagadian mayor forwarded to Ombudsman

By Edu Punay, The Philippine Star

Posted at Jan 08 2013 08:00 AM | Updated as of Jan 08 2013 04:08 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Justice (DOJ) bared yesterday that the charges filed against Pagadian City Mayor Samuel Co by an investor who was duped in the P12-billion investment scam of Aman Futures Group Phils. Inc. have been forwarded to the Office of the Ombudsman.

Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Edna Valenzuela, head of the special panel handling the different sets of syndicated estafa complaints against businessman Manuel Amalilio and other Aman employees, confirmed that the complaint was filed by Zaalica Adiong against Co and City Treasurer Flornina Gerona.

“We have forwarded it to the Ombudsman because the allegations in the complaint involved performance of their official duties as public officials,” she told The STAR.

In her complaint received by the panel last Dec. 4, Adiong alleged that Co issued a permit in July last year that provided a cloak of legality for the operations of Aman and helped the trading firm convince more investors.

“For quite sometime Aman conducted its illegal operations without the necessary permit from the mayor’s office of Pagadian City. However, on July 27, 2012 Mayor Samuel Co issued a temporary permit to Aman despite knowing fully well that the firm does not have a secondary license that is necessary for its operations, which was collecting cash investments from the public,” she said.

“That paved the way for Aman to conduct its operations in Pagadian City with a semblance of legality,” it added.

Adiong, who lost P3.2 million to the Ponzi-type scam, said Co’s link to Aman became clearer when the mayor allegedly tried to offer an amicable settlement when Aman collapsed.

She said Gerona represented the mayor in collecting investments for Aman. She submitted as proof receipts corresponding to her investments signed by the city treasurer.

The complainant also named as respondent a certain Haide Sepada, Co’s staff stationed at his house in Tiguma.

Prosecutor Valenzuela, however, said their panel would handle a separate complaint against Co and his wife Pricilla Ann that was filed by other investors that include businessman Samsodin Ala, fire officer Fabian Tapayan Jr. and government employee Norolhaya Taha.

Tapayan claimed in his affidavit that Co personally received investments from victims.

He corroborated an earlier statement of Aman financial manager turned witness Ma. Donna Coyme that the mayor even distributed checks to some investors.

“We will handle complaints that alleged actions of the mayor (were) in his personal capacity,” she stressed.

Co already admitted he had tried to legitimize operations of Aman.

In his affidavit submitted to the DOJ last Dec. 17, he said he met with Aman president Fernando Luna and asked for several documents “to legalize Aman’s operation.”

Co, whose bank accounts were frozen by the Court of Appeals last month after investors implicated him in the scam, had revealed that Amalilio even visited him in his office at the Pagadian City Hall in July and briefed him about the investment firm.

Amalilio, according to the mayor, submitted a certificate of incorporation from the Securities and Exchange Commission to prove that Aman was a duly registered firm.

“If only to protect the investing public of their considerable investments, during the interim of the submission of the required secondary permit, the Permits and Licensing Division recommended for the issuance of a temporary permit valid only for 60 days,” Co claimed.

The mayor, who himself filed a complaint against Aman, admitted investing with Aman after that meeting with Amalilio.

He said he had invested P3,266,700 in Aman Futures under the account name Bo’s Coffee on Sept. 11 with interest of 58 percent after 17 days. He made another investment the following day under the account name Max’s Chicken with an amount of P3,205,500 with a 60-percent interest after 17 days.

His affidavit showed his investments with returns worth P42 million, including personal and pool investments from relatives and friends.