Lanao Sur gov’t takes custody of pyramid operator linked to Aman FuturesBy Allan Nawal and Richel Umel, Nico Alconaba
ILIGAN CITY, Philippines – Masique had a hard time carrying the two attaché cases, which contained about P2 million, to the bank.
It was the “interest” he got in March for investing nearly the same amount in the scheme that fellow Maranaw, Jacob Rasuman, has peddled.
“I was grinning from ear to ear,” Masique, who is involved in antique trading, said by phone as he appealed to the Philippine Daily Inquirer not to use his real name.
Anticipating a larger income if he put in more money, Masique borrowed money from relatives in Masiu and in Poona Bayabao towns, with a promise that he would pay them by early July. By May, he had accumulated his borrowings to nearly P25 million and put it on his account with Rasuman.
In August, Masique found himself and dozens of other investors meeting with Rasuman, more known as Coco, at a secluded area in Marawi City.
There, Rasuman pledged to give their money back by February 2013.
Masique said he could not totally recall Rasuman’s explanation on how their money was lost as his thoughts centered on how he would pay his relatives – who had become furious when he defaulted on paying them.
“I think he said he lost the money to another investment,” Masique said.
After the meeting – brokered by Lanao del Sur Gov. Mamintal Adiong Jr. – Masique said he was a little bit relieved because of Rasuman’s pledge.
Besides, Masique said he learned that Rasuman has been placed in police custody in Marawi City and could not flee.
But Senior Superintendent Romeo Magsalos, Lanao del Sur police director, said Rasuman has been placed in the custody of the provincial crisis committee.
He admitted though that during the past 80 days, policemen have been securing Rasuman inside his house in Marawi City.
“The role of the PNP is only to secure Coco Rasuman, who is at his residence in Marawi City,” Magsalos told the Philippine Daily Inquirer by phone.
Magsalos said technically, Rasuman has not been arrested because no charge has been brought up against him.
“But any transaction or movement of Rasuman should pass through the committee,” he said.
Magsalos said local authorities have been restricting Rasuman’s movement to protect the pyramiding scheme operator from possible attacks.
Among those who reportedly invested money in his scheme were ranking civilian and military officials, small and big-time businessmen.
One Philippine Daily Inquirer source, who refused to be named, said several Manila- and Cagayan de Oro-based Christian businessmen – with ties to Maranaw traders – also invested heavily in Rasuman’s scheme.
Acting Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao assured the public that violence would not erupt from the Rasuman scam – unlike in the case of the Aman Futures scam – due to the timely intervention of the provincial crisis committee.
“Rasuman promised to pay the investors, at least their principal investments, by February next year,” Hataman told the Inquirer by phone.
Hataman said based on what was reported to him, Rasuman had pledged to sell his family’s properties to raise money to pay back the investors.
This, he said, had “calmed down” the investors.
Samira Gutoc-Tomawis, a member of the ARMM’s Regional Legislative Assembly, said the crisis “has been contained, courtesy of the crisis committee.”
“Culture was a big factor here. There were less bursts of emotion because the respected elders, local government officials and religious leaders had stepped in,” Gutoc-Tomawis said.
“The elders were involved in pacifying,” she said.
But even then, Gutoc-Tomawis said the RLA’s committee on public order and security would convene to discuss the issue.
The decision was reached following reports of “agents” getting killed or their families being kidnapped – especially in the case of Aman Futures – allegedly by disgruntled investors.
“If the killing and kidnapping continue, this could lead to cases of rido (clan wars),” she said.
A source said Rasuman had no direct connection with Aman Futures.
It only happened that Rasuman had invested P150 Million in Aman, the source added.
“Instead of earning from the Aman investment, Rasuman lost another P150 Million,” the source said.
The source added that to date, Rasuman still “has some of the investments with him, but could not pay all of the investors.”
Gutoc-Tomawis said the Department of Trade and Industry should have acted on the pyramiding scam even before it became a problem.
“There was no regulatory mechanism,” she said.
Gutoc-Tomawis said that as early as August, she has already questioned the scheme, which has victimized not only big investors but also “ordinary people like farmers, fishermen, teachers and soldiers.”
Gutoc-Tomawis also denied being related by affinity to Rasuman.
“He belongs to a different Tomawis family,” Gutoc-Tomawis said.