A former official of the National Economic Development Authority became famous for a line advising officials to tone down on their corrupt acts: “Moderate your greed.”
The advice was not taken to heart by the yellow cabal responsible for the P8.7-billion road right of way (RRoW) scam in General Santos City which totally exploited power and influence to squeeze every ounce of money from the public coffers.
The syndicate that is being linked to the highest level in the administration of former President Noynoy Aquino used falsified documents to collect compensation from government for land supposedly appropriated for public infrastructure.
It turns out, based on the findings of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee looking into the scam, that aside from the bogus land titles, the syndicate was also into jacking up sizes of lots with legitimate compensation claims.
The ongoing hearing on the RRoW, presided over by Sen. Richard Gordon, chairman of the Blue Ribbon panel, and Sen. Manny Pacquiao, who heads the Committee on Public Works, uncovered another modus operandi of the group in which a 90-square meter (sqm) property turns into a 25,713-sqm lot for RRoW compensation.
The Right-of-Way Act mandates the government to provide just compensation for landowners whose properties are affected by public projects such as the building of roads.
The scam was exposed due to the almost similar amounts that were applied for in seeking RRoW compensations for nine transactions in General Santos City alone that defrauded the government of some P255.55 million.
During the probe, Gordon exposed the yellow modus operandi through a table which showed the parcels of land covered by titles from supposed owners seeking compensation and their actual sizes compared with the application for RRoW compensation.
The Land Registration Authority certified the properties to be authentic and genuine but the size of the lots was jacked up several times over.
The locations of the alleged properties were also in areas not indicated in the titles.
The large-scale racket would not have been possible without high-level connivance that, based on the Senate probe, is leading all the way up to the doorsteps of Noynoy.
At least two of Noynoy’s Cabinet members have been implicated in the scam: former Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson and ex-Budget Secretary Florencio Abad.
Abad is known to be the financial whiz of the Liberal Party (LP) and whose dealings, according to businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles, included his being her mentor in the Priority Development Assistance Fund scam.
Former Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II branded Abad as the pork barrel mastermind and not Napoles.
He was the inducer and the more guilty in the scam compared to Napoles, he said.
In an unsigned document obtained by Sen. Panfilo Lacson, Napoles said she first met Abad in 2000, when the latter was the district representative of Batanes.
The Senate probe, however, is zeroing in on businessman Nelson Ti who is tagged as the financier of the General Santos City syndicate and whom Gordon’s panel had established as an associate of Eldon Cruz, husband of Noynoy’s oldest sister Ballsy Aquino-Cruz.
Ti has refused to appear during the Senate inquiry and is expected to be ordered arrested if he fails to attend the coming hearings.
The manhunt for Ti intensified after Gordon, during a recent hearing, showed photos of the man to urge law enforcers to exert more effort in locating him.
“I am urging the PNP (Philippine National Police) and the NBI (National Bureau of Investigation) to intensify your search for Nelson Ti, who is said to be the financier of the syndicate behind the road right of way scam,” he said.
“We have sent him several invitations but he continues to ignore them. He has a lot to answer for in our investigation into the RRoW payment scam,” he added.
Ti appears to be the missing piece in the puzzle that will blow the lid open on the yellow can of worms in the RRoW scam.