Gov’t witness links Aquino brother-in-law to DPWH right-of-way scam

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A government witness has implicated the brother-in-law of former President Benigno Aquino III to the P8.7-billion fake right-of-way claims in Mindanao.

At a press conference on Monday, Nov. 27, government witness Roberto Catapang Jr. said that the syndicate behind the fake claims often used the name of businessman Eldon Cruz as the one endorsing the right-of-way claims for the release.

“Actually, talk of town ito sa DPWH [Department of Public Works and Highways],” Catapang said. “Alam yan ng central office. Tiga Manila, kapamilya ng opisyal.”

[Actually, this is a talk of the town at the DPWH. The central office knows about this. This person is from Manila and related to an official.]

“Ipakita mo yung document,” Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II told Catapang.

Catapang has been admitted to the government’s Witness Protection Program (WPP).

Catapang showed reporters a letter purportedly signed by Cruz asking the DPWH to endorse to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to release the payment for the right-of-way claims.

“Ginagamit kasi ang pangalan nya. Parati yan, parati nagagamit ang pangalan ni ano, sorry sir, si Eldon Cruz. According sa kanila signature ito ni Eldon Cruz,” referring to the endorsement letter he showed to media.

Catapang said the right-of-way claim using fake titles started in 2009, which covered the entire Region 12 - that is, the Soccsksargen Region, which is composed of four provinces - Cotabato, Sarangani, South Cotabato, and Sultan Kudarat -  and five cities - Cotabato City, General Santos, Kidapawan, Koronadal, Tacurong.

However, the claims from other areas stopped, except for General Santos City.

Catapang said over 300 fake claims had been processed and released, the biggest claim amounted to P500 million and the total of all the claims released was P8.7 billion.

Last Friday, Aguirre held a press conference, saying that the scam supposedly involved two trusted lieutenants of the former president.

He said the whistle-blower named former Budget Secretary Florencio Abad and former Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson as among those involved in the scheme, which supposedly started during the latter part of the administration of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2009. -