By Hannah Torregoza
Senator Richard Gordon said the Ombudsman and other government agencies should conduct a lifestyle check on government officials and employees who were involved in the alleged P8.7-billion road right of way payment scam.
Gordon, chair of the Senate blue ribbon committee which is investigating the controversy, said he is convinced that some people in government who are involved in a conspiracy to defraud the government and thus, should undergo lifestyle checks.
The senator said the Office of the Ombudsman, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the National Bureau of Investigations (NBI) should conduct lifestyle checks on some current and former officials of the agencies.
The agencies include the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and the Land Registration Authority (LRA), among others.
“I am convinced that the road right-of-way payment scam is perpetrated with the connivance of unscrupulous individuals from different agencies that has a role in RROW payment,” Gordon said.
“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,” the senator said.
The Right-of-Way Act mandates the government to provide just compensation for landowners whose properties were or will be used or affected by national infrastructure projects, such as the building of roads.
The Blue Ribbon has been investigating the RROW payment scam in General Santos City, which was bared by Sen. Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiao through Senate Resolution No. 561.
The modus operandi of the syndicate was to claim for just compensation of RROW which are intended for rightful owners who were affected by national highway construction at General Santos City.
Involved in the alleged anomaly included former budget secretary Florencio “Butch Abad, former public works secretaries Hermogenes Ebdane and Rogelio Singson.
Gordon, during the Senate hearing was able to expose the syndicates’ modus of submitting fake titles which had already cost the government P255.55-million for nine parcels of land alone in General Santos City.
He pointed out during the hearings how the sizes of the parcels of land covered by the titles that the claimants submitted, which the LRA certified to be authentic and genuine, were jacked up several times over.
Gordon also noted that the locations of the alleged properties were also in areas other than the locations indicated in the titles.
“When you can no longer rely on one of the most important pillars of business and property ownership – the title, the Torrens title, if you cannot rely on that then nobody’s going to come in and invest here, our commercial transactions would all be affected, people cannot pass on their property by way of sale or by way of inheritance. Mahirap na magpamana o magbenta, mahirap na mangutang sa bangko,” he said.