Land size, value jacked up
The scam defrauded the government of millions of pesos of taxpayers’ money
Aside from falsifying documents, the syndicate involved in the P8.7-billion road right of way (RRoW) scam in General Santos City also jacked up “several times” the prices and expanse of land covered by the fraud, according to Senate probers.
For an actual 90 square meters of land, for instance, the government was assessed almost P30 million in RRoW compensation through the racket.
In total, nine claimants from General Santos City received P255.55 million in fraudulent RRoW compensation through the particular scheme.
This was found in the course of the ongoing Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing on the RRoW, presided over by Sen. Richard Gordon jointly with Sen. Manny Pacquiao, chairman of the Committee on Public Works.
The RRoW scam was believed undertaken by an elaborate syndicate that goes way up the rung of the previous administration of President Benigno Aquino III.
A lifestyle check on government officials and employees, including those from the previous administration, involved in the scam has been sought by Gordon from the Department of Justice (DoJ), the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Ombudsman.
Gordon’s panel had tagged Nelson Ti, who the committee established was an associate of Eldon Cruz, husband of Aquino’s oldest sister Ballsy Aquino-Cruz, as prime mover of the syndicate in the RRoW scam.
Gordon wanted the lifestyle check to also include current and former personnel of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the Department of Budget and Management and the Land Registration Authority, among others agencies.
“I am convinced that the road right-of-way payment scam is perpetrated with the connivance of unscrupulous individuals from different agencies who have a role in RRoW payment,” Gordon said.
A lifestyle check on government officials and employees involved in the scam in Mindanao has been sought
“That’s why I am calling on the Office of the Ombudsman, the DoJ and the NBI to perform lifestyle checks on some officials, current and former and some employees of these agencies who have a direct role in the transactions,” he added.
Nelson Ti, an associate of Eldon Cruz, the brother-in-law of Aquino, was tagged as prime mover of the syndicate.
“However, when verified with the Register of Deeds of General Santos, the said TCT turned out to be covering a 90-square meter property in Apopong with Richmond Land Innovations Inc. as its registered owner,” the committee said.
Worse, the committee gathered that Ballesterso was paid P29,998,500, in five payment tranches, for the fraudulent claim.
Three other claimants — identified as only Ms. Austria, Mr. Canada and Ms. Fernandez — were paid exactly the same amount Ballesterso received also in five tranches — P503,494.02 in the first payment, then P50,368.56, followed by P1,570,069.96 then P12,875,317.00 and the last tranche at P14,999,250.46.
The details on the size of land purportedly owned by the eight other claimants were not made available.
The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee has set another hearing on the matter this week to dig deeper into the scam.
In total, nine claimants from General Santos City received P255.55 million.
At least two ex-Cabinet members of former President Aquino have been implicated in the P8.7-billion scam, namely, DPWH Secretary Rogelio Singson and Budget Secretary Florencio Abad.
Gordon earlier had vowed to unmask the so-called “Big Five” tagged in the scam but one of them, a former Mindanao mayor, was already killed.
The senator expressed belief Ser John Pastrana, of the Land Registration Authority in General Santos City, was also liable for the scam.
He expressed belief that other syndicates, with similar modus operandi, are operating in Luzon and the Visayas.