ILIGAN CITY—It could have been a double, or even triple, whammy for Maranaos, had plans to open a conduit office of Aman Futures here and eventually in Marawi City pushed through.
Word about these plans circulated around mid-September, two weeks before Aman Futures collapsed.
Sources here and in Marawi, who are from local organizations, the academe and professional groups, told the Inquirer the planned opening of the conduit offices in both cities was shepherded by someone who introduced himself as working for the National Food Authority’s antismuggling body. The sources declined to be named for security reasons.
“It was even circulated widely in social media, drawing both heavy criticism and a big flock of supporters,” one source related.
At that time, Lanao del Sur, one of the country’s poorest provinces, was still reeling from the collapse of a similar investment racket overseen by Jachob “Coco” Rasuman that went bust around June.
The appetite for recouping their losses with Rasuman would have made the Maranaos doubly gullible. In fact, many of them tried their luck with Aman Futures in Pagadian that also eventually collapsed on Sept. 26.
As an entry strategy, the local handler presented Aman Futures as a topnotch firm with deep knowledge of the global financial investments landscape. It also styled itself as a company committed to charitable pursuits that could help develop the province.
In Pagadian, Aman Futures cultivated the image of an economic messiah among the poor folk, especially in Kawit village, where it located its investment solicitations office.
“We waited for the Iligan office to open, where we can have the opportunity to be account holders. In Pagadian, we were only riders,” related Hanifa, 31, a bulk trader of ukay-ukay goods.
“It’s different if you are an account holder, you can strategize your cash placement. In a group, you must have a uniform investment term, which may not conform to the preference of each one,” Hanifa added.
Hanifa said that around August, as word was circulating among investors in Pagadian that Aman Futures will be on business holiday by December, they were also told to watch out for “new areas” where the company will operate.
In the new areas, they were further told “that earnings will be much higher,” she added.
As recounted by Pagadian-based investors, interest earnings on cash placements offered by Aman Futures ranged from 30 percent to 86 percent, depending on the investment term.
Pitch for charity
The peak rate was offered for 20-day placements during the last week of July when the company had a ‘Ramadan special.’
“I am sure many were also awaiting the opening of the Iligan office,” said Riyana, 29, a former overseas worker.
Riyana related that she was already planning to become an investment pooler herself had she obtained an account with Aman Futures.
Riyana even gave the Inquirer the contact number of Aman Futures-Iligan—09173995075.
Aman Futures’ local handler claimed that the company intends to pool money from the public to be used for its securities trading activities, that it engaged in trading in gold, oil futures and foreign currencies.
But beyond these claims, its pitch for charity “seemingly touched raw chords” among many people.
The Inquirer sources said the plan was to “silently co-opt local elders and religious personalities” into the scheme through the promise of zakat (funds for charity).
It wasn’t meant to be as the operation’s cover was blown.