MANILA, Philippines—The leader of the Rasuman group, an investment firm in Lanao Del Sur that has been linked to a pyramid scam in Mindanao and Visayas, was arrested Tuesday by joint police and National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) operatives in Marawi City.
Lanao Del Sur Police Chief Senior Superintendent Romeo Magsalo said in a radio interview that Jacob “Coco” Rasuman is under the custody of authorities who apprehended him at 2:15 p.m. Tuesday at his residence in Barangay (village) Panggao Saduc, Marawi City.
Rasuman was said to have been holed up in his house for a few months, fearing retaliation from the victims of his pyramiding scheme.
The Rasuman Group is similar to the Aman Futures Group Inc. that used a Ponzi Scheme to amass huge amounts of money.
As of August 21, a total of 323 claims against Rasuman, amounting to nearly P1.13 billion, had been recorded.
Aman Futures got up to P12 billion from 15,000 victims mostly in Mindanao and Visayas.
Rasuman was immediately transported to Cagayan de Oro City.
Arrest to ease tension
Acting Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao said the arrest was made even if Rasuman promised to pay his investors in February 2013.
“He has to face the law,” Hataman said.
Hataman said the arrest would ease tension in Lanao del Sur and satisfy disgruntled investors.
Meanwhile, the Cagayan de Oro Regional Trial Court Branch 20 ordered the arrest of former Public Works and Highways Undersecretary Bashir Rasuman and several others involved in another investment scam that operated in Mindanao.
Aside from the former undersecretary, others ordered arrested include Emma Amer Rasuman, Bashir Rasuman Jr., Princess Aliah Tomawis Rasuman, Jeremiah Amer Rasuman, Jamirie Amer Rasuman, Jamila Rasuman Tomawis, Jalaima Rasuman Mangarun and Jerome Rasuman.
“Coco” has already been arrested.
They are facing a case for violation of Presidential Decree 1689 or Syndicated Estafa.
The case stemmed from several complaints filed by individuals led by Ab—amar Sambitory and 24 other complainants who said that their investments as well as that of their relatives have amounted to P120-million.
Complainants said they were promised a return of about P274.075 million in just two months.
“The elements of syndicated estafa are all present specifically that by their modus, respondents, who are closely related to each other, showed unity of design and purpose in defrauding the public by holding out that NAD Auto Option Corporation and BDR Group of Companies exist, albeit untrue, and successfully inducing them to invest and part with their money,” the DOJ panel of investigators said.
DOJ told to exercise care
In another development, Mayor Samuel Co of Pagadian City called on the Department of Justice to “carefully scrutinize” the testimonial and documentary evidence that allegedly linked him to the double-your-money scam of the Aman Futures Group Philippines Incorporated.
“It’s easy for people to say things against me. I urge Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to carefully scrutinize what she called testimonial and documentary evidence,” Co told the Philippine Daily Inquirer by phone about the other financial fraud to hit Mindanao in recent months.
Co insisted that he had nothing to do with the financial scam, claiming that he, himself, was a victim.
The mayor earlier claimed that he lost at least P5 million to Aman when it collapsed late September.
Politics come into play
He said he was being singled out because Zamboanga del Sur Gov. Antonio Cerilles wanted to discredit him. Co is the provincial chair of the Liberal Party.
“Cerilles wants to enter the Liberal Party that’s why he wants me out,” he said.
Co will be running for a congressional seat in next year’s elections against reelectionist Rep. Victor Yu, a known ally of Cerilles of the Nationalist People’s Coalition.
Co is a known ally of former congressman and convicted child rapist Romeo Jalosjos, whose brother, Dapitan City Mayor Dominador Jalosjos, is challenging Cerilles’s reelection bid.
Another Jalosjos family member will face the governor’s wife, reelectionist Rep. Aurora Cerilles of the province’s first district, in next year’s polls.
“This is also the reason Jalosjos is being dragged in the issue,” Co said. “These accusations are all politically motivated. Secretary de Lima should be careful,” Co added.
But the mayor said he would face the charges against him.
“These are all fabricated. I will face those who accuse me,” he said.
At the time of the phone interview with the Philippine Daily Inquirer on Tuesday, Co said he was in Manila with his lawyers.
Co also questioned claims allegedly made by Aman agent Maria Donna Coyme that he invested P30 million as “start-up capital.”
“Coyme claimed she joined Aman in May. Aman started in January or February, how can she say that I provided the start-up capital when she was not there yet?” the mayor said.
Co also decried the killing of his security personnel, John Paul Go, who was shot dead Tuesday in Pagadian City.
Co said Go was the fourth person he trusted who was killed since the Aman Futures controversy broke out. The first was Rene Ebol, the head of barangay affairs, then Evelyn Declaro, a former barangay chair and assigned at the Solid Waste Management Office, and Arthur Hadjirul of the barangay affairs.
“Until now nothing has been done to find out the killers, all of them were shot to death,” Co said.
NBI Pagadian Head Agent Norman Decampong was not answering the calls made by the Inquirer.
Cerilles has also not answered text messages and calls made by the Inquirer.With a report from Tetch Torres, INQUIRER.net; Richel V. Umel, Nico Alconaba and Julie S. Alipala, Inquirer Mindanao