Witness claims Aquino in-law tagged in alleged right-of-way scam

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 27 2017 05:11 PM | Updated as of Nov 27 2017 06:45 PM

MANILA - A witness under the care of the Department of Justice claimed Monday the name of former President Benigno Aquino III's brother-in-law was often used by members of a syndicate that sought right of way compensation using fake titles.

Witness Roberto Catapang Jr., who was processing a "partly" legitimate claim then, said the name of Eldon Cruz, husband of Aquino's eldest sister, Ballsy, was often claimed by the syndicate led by siblings Wilma and Col. Chino Mamburam as one of their backers.

"Parati talagang nagagamit ang pangalan ni--sorry, sir--Sir Eldon Cruz," Catapang told reporters.

Catapang then showed a letter supposedly signed by Cruz, asking then-Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson to endorse the road right of way claim to the Department of Budget and Management.

"According sa kanila, signature 'to ni ganun, ni Sir," he said.

Cruz's eldest son, Jiggy, however, denied that his father is in any way involved in the scam. 

"To tag my father in this 'scam' is absurd and ridiculous. The letter shown today at the DOJ shows a forged signature. That's not his signature. It is not even remotely close to it," he said. 

"We live in a time of lies and fake news and I can't believe it's reached this point. It's just totally ridiculous," he added. 

He also attached a notarized document and a copy of Cruz's passport to show the difference between the two signatures. 


RIGHT OF WAY

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre earlier said Catapang is the witness who implicated Singson and former Budget Secretary Butch Abad in the scam.

The scam sought right of way compensation for land owners affected by the national highway construction at General Santos City using fake titles and supposedly bled government some P8.7-billion.

The justice department on Monday issued an immigration lookout bulletin order against Singson, Abad, and 41 others over their alleged involvement in the roadway anomaly.

Aguirre said Cruz’s supposed signature will have to be verified, and if it passes scrutiny, Cruz may be included in the lookout bulletin.

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Catapang said the letter bearing Cruz's signature was one of up to 4 letters supposedly endorsing road right of way claims. Another one of these letters had a logo of Malacañang, he added.

He said the syndicate stopped its operations prior to the May 2016 elections.

“Kapag kasi ‘mainit,’ humihinto muna sila,” he said.

He showed documents purportedly showing Abad approved the release of a P500-million fund for right of way claims in a matter of 4 days in 2013.

“December 23 yung request… Na-approve for release December 27,” Catapang said.

“Holiday pa yun,” said Aguirre II, who admitted Catapang provisionally to the department's witness protection program.

Catapang said he came forward because of repeated threats to his life and those of his immediate family, adding he and his daughter survived an ambush try in 2015. 

His bodyguard, a former soldier, was killed in the said incident, Catapang said.

He bared the falling out between him and the syndicate happened because they no longer needed him and they wanted to directly deal with the government agencies in the processing and application for the claims. - with Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News