MANILA, Philippines – Pagadian City Mayor Samuel Co said the need for a bigger fund in the May 2013 elections lured him to invest in Aman Futures, the firm being tagged in the multi-billion peso pyramiding scheme that hit parts of Visayas and Mindanao.
Co said he invested some P5 million in Aman Futures, led by Malaysian Manuel Amalilio, right after he received reports that his opponents also invested.
"Paano kung halimbawa eh papuntang eleksyon, mga 9 months pa. Eh kung P5 million ito ngayon, P5 million pa rin ang pera ko [pagdating sa eleksyon]," Co told radio dzMM.
"Sa kanila ang P5 million, magdo-doble. Ang kwenta ko sa 8 months, aabot ng P1.2 billion. Eh paano ako lalaban sa kanila?"
Co is now on his third term as Pagadian mayor. He is running for congressman of Zamboanga del Sur's 1st district in 2013.
The mayor admitted he knew about the dubious nature of the business but decided to take a gamble.
"Lahat ng taga-Pagadian, di ganoon kabobo, alam namin na somewhat kalokohan ito, pero pinagsamantalahan na lang. Marami namang nakatubo dito. Lahat ng nakatubo, tahimik," he said.
The mayor claimed he never got his capital back after Amalilio flew to Malaysia and the latter's right-hand man in Pagadian, Fernando Luna, went in hiding.
Not an Amalilio backer
Co also denied accusations that he was a backer of Amalilio after he provided the latter with a temporary business permit.
He believes the allegations were politically motivated, and that his opponents, led by Zamboanga de Sur Antonio Cerilles, are behind them.
"Expected ko na iyon dahil pinagtutulungan ako ng governor at congressman ko," he said.
Co said other officials should also be investigated, citing that the scam did only take place in his city. He also claimed that some of Luna's men had links to Cerilles and his vice mayor, Romeo Pulmones, who is running for mayor in 2013.
He, however, admitted meeting by chance Amalilio once in the Range Rover dealership in Manila through a friend who is an avid buyer of the luxury car.
He said it was at this point that he offered Amalilio some space in the city's mall for his operations.
Co also clarified his alleged connections with Amalilio and his cohorts, as well as reports that he distributed checks in behalf of Aman Futures.
He said the checks, which came in envelopes, was sent by a certain Aman official named Donna Coyme after the pyramid collapsed.
He said Coyme asked for his help in distributing checks to avoid a scuffle among the disgruntled investors. He claimed that some of checks, which bore relatively small amounts, were accepted by the bank and able to yield cash.
Coyme has since been placed under the custody of National Bureau of Investigation (NBI). She has also filed an affidavit supposedly detailing Co's involvement in the P12-billion scam.
"Iyung maliliit na amount, nakapasok yun. Kasi kasama iyun sa inisyu nila Aman. Umabot sa mga P800 million ang na-rescue. Pumapasok naman [ang cheke]. Kaya nga nag-aagawan ang mga tao sa tseke," he said.
"Hindi ko maintindihan kung bakit iyun dumating sa akin, or baka inutusan na siya ng kalaban ko."
Despite numerous allegations linking him to Aman and his own admission that he invested in the company, Co claimed he warned his constituents about the questionable nature of the scheme.
He said he has recordings of his radio program to prove this claim.
"Sa totoo lang, I am the only official na nag-wa-warn sa radio na mag-ingat dito kasi it is too good to be true. Sobrang laki ng interes," he said.
However, Co said most of the people did not heed the warnings since some investors had reported accepting large windfalls from the scheme.