MANILA, Philippines – Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II placed on the immigration lookout former public works secretary Rogelio Singson and former budget secretary Florencio Abad over their alleged involvement in an P8.7-billion road right-of-way scam.
Aguirre signed the memorandum addressed to Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente on November 24 and released to media on Monday, November 27.
Aside from Singson and Abad, 41 other individuals were also included in the order, including a certain Nelson Ti, who Aguirre earlier said was a "close relative" of former Philippine envoy to China Domingo Lee, an Aquino appointee.
In his memorandum, Aguirre said Ti, Wilma Mamburam, Colonel Chino Mamburam, and Mercedita Dumlao were the masterminds of the scam "in connivance with other government and private officials."
"Considering the gravity of the possible offenses which may have been committed, there is a strong probability that they may attempt to place themselves beyond the reach of the legal processes of this Department by leaving the country," Aguirre said.
As of posting, Singson and Abad have not yet responded to a request for comment.
Abad earlier said, however, that the accusations are baseless. He added that the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) can best answer questions.
A similar complaint against Singson and Abad is pending before the Office of the Ombudsman.
DOJ puts former secretaries Rogelio Singson and Butch Abad on Immigration lookout over alleged road right of way scam @rapplerdotcom pic.twitter.com/CUVBYb34GK — Lian Buan (@lianbuan) November 27, 2017
An immigration lookout bulletin order does not prohibit its subjects from leaving the country, but just sets up a mechanism so authorities are alerted of their movements.
Aguirre also identified on Monday a witness to the scam.
Roberto Catapang Jr, who has been provisionally admitted to the Witness Protection Program (WPP), submitted an affidavit detailing the scam where personalities forged right-of-way documents to claim compensation from the government for lands used by the DPWH.
According to Catapang, those involved used names of non-existent persons to claim compensation for lands used in the construction of a national highway in General Santos City.
Aguirre said high-ranking officials including Singson and Abad were aware of the modus. Their complicity was implied, said Aguirre.
The 43 names on the immigration lookout come from Catapang's affidavit.
Aguirre also said he was informed by former South Cotabato assemblyman Rogelio Garcia that his 7,000-square-meter property was used in the same modus operandi.
Garcia will also submit a sworn statement for case buildup.
"The allegations in the sworn statement of Mr Roberto Catapang Jr, including the amount taken from government coffers, are serious allegations that should be looked into. This is in line with the President's directive to wage war on corruption, then and now," Aguirre said. – Rappler.com