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Reckoning day nears

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“The anomaly, meanwhile, had resulted in doubts over the RRoW compensation system.

It all started from a letter to former Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre from Mindanao legislators complaining of irregularities in the payment of road right of way (RRoW) compensations for a road project in General Santos City.

What followed was the unearthing of a syndicated operation that appears to go way up the ladder of the previous administration which was proven adept at siphoning off public funds through stealth.

The P8.7-billion RRoW scandal involved the manufacture of fake titles to cover unowned land or at times lots where road had already been built to seek right of way compensation from the government.

The law provides that the government pays just compensation that is usually the fair market value of a property where a government project passes.

Relatives and officials of former President Noynoy Aquino are being linked to the anomaly.

Whistle-blower Roberto Catapang, who used to be part of the syndicate and also the source of the information cited by Mindanao officials, holds proof that the transactions were based on fabricated documents.

It was also Catapang who provided Aguirre a 12 January letter supposedly signed by Eldon Cruz, husband of Noynoy’s eldest sister, Ballsy Aquino Cruz, requesting then Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson to endorse the payment for RRoW claims with the Department of Budget and Management.

Jiggy Cruz, the nephew of former President Benigno Aquino and son of Eldon Cruz, later on denied the allegations, saying his father’s signature was “faked.”

So far, the current investigation being conducted by the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee can only provide indirect links of the rocket to the relatives of Noynoy through Nelson Ti who Sen. Richard Gordon’s committee tagged as financier of the scam, but it was not the first time that Eldon and Ballsy were caught up in an alleged anomaly.

In 2013, Czech Ambassador Joseph Rychtar revealed a $30-million extortion attempt on Czech train supplier Inekon related to a contract to supply coaches for the Mass Rail Transit (MRT) 3 in which he named Eldon and Ballsy and other Aquino relatives as among the personalities involved.

Rychtar after raising public uproar from his allegations, retracted his statement and pinned some yellow sacrificial lambs such as businessman Wilson de Vera, who was a Liberal Party (LP) operator, and then MRT general manager Al Vitangcol.

Rychtar’s initially revealed that Ballsy, Eldon and other presidential relatives and LP officials visited the Czech Republic to facilitate the under-the-table deal for the MRT 3 coaches.
No agency, including the Ombudsman, dared to conduct a serious investigation on the allegations of Rychtar involving the relatives of Noynoy.

“Relatives and officials of former President Noynoy Aquino are being linked to the anomaly.

Amid the fresh allegations in the RRoW scandal, the government should pursue a resolute investigation without being distracted by threats from the Aquino camp or the yellow society.

Implicated in the bogus RRoW claims aside from Singson, Ballsy and Eldon was Budget Secretary Florencio Abad.

Abad also has long been named in several allegations of anomaly such as the Disbursement Acceleration Program fiasco and even in the plunder of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or the legislators’ pork barrel.

Alleged PDAF scam operator Janet Lim Napoles tagged Abad as his mentor in the diversion of funds from PDAF.

The Senate panel appears to have the goods to pursue the anomaly to its end in which Ti would be a vital witness. The National Bureau of Investigation agents and the police are now looking for Ti.

The anomaly, meanwhile, had resulted in doubts over the RRoW compensation system that the Senate said the funds for which in the 2019 budget will undergo tight scrutiny.

The RRoW in turn is a major hurdle for key infrastructure that the Duterte administration is trying to ramp up for the country to stay in pace with its developed neighbors.

Resolving the P8.7-billion RRoW anomaly is imperative not only for accountability but also to remove doubts about the use of massive funds earmarked for public roads and other infrastructure.

Let the chips fall where they may.

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