State regulators under fire for investment scam

Lawmakers castigate SEC, AMLC, NBI for ‘sleeping on the job’


SEC chairperson Teresita Herbosa said the SEC had issued an advisory warning prospective investors against Aman Futures. But she explained that the firm also had to be given “the opportunity to be heard.” Photo from

State regulators and law enforcers on Tuesday found themselves in the hot seat at the House of Representatives investigation into the P12-billion investment scam that victimized an estimated 15,000 people in Mindanao and the Visayas.

House legislators castigated the Anti-Money Laudering Council, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the National Bureau of Investigation for what they said was their “reactive” attitude to the case.

“Medyo natutulog sa pansitan ang SEC dito (The SEC seems to have been caught napping here,” an angry  Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said during the hearing of the committee on banks and financial intermediaries.

AMLC executive director Vicente Aquino announced at the hearing that some P200 million worth of assets of the Aman Futures Group Phil., the alleged perpetrator of the pyramid scam, had been frozen by the Court of Appeals as of Monday.

But the House investigators would not be appeased.

Rodriguez said the SEC should have closed down the Pagadian City office of Aman Futures earlier to prevent more investors from being duped. He noted that the firm began operating in January this year, but the SEC acted on a case only last August.

SEC chairperson Teresita Herbosa said the SEC had issued an advisory warning prospective investors against Aman Futures. But she explained that the firm also had to be given “the opportunity to be heard.”

“We did our job,” she said, noting also that the SEC did not acquire jurisdiction over Aman Futures until the firm was registered last June.

NBI Director Nonnatus Caesar Rojas explained that when the agency began investigating the complaints of a possible investment scam, he said agents were met by reluctant and uncooperative victims.


The as-yet-unsuspecting victims looked on the NBI as a “spoilsport” because they were “sort of happy with what was going on,” he said.

“But we already felt that there was some problem and that this was some sort of a business scam,” he said.

Some of the victims were talking of staging a protest rally against the NBI for “disturbing the party, so to speak,” Rojas said.

He said that even when Fernando Luna, who managed the Aman Futures scam, disappeared on Sept. 26, “the people were still not alarmed because the first complaint we received was only on Oct. 15.”

“The people were waiting. They didn’t want the NBI to come in just yet because they were hoping that their investments would be paid, that it would turn out well for everyone,” he said.

“When the cases started coming, that’s when the people probably realized the game was over, the party was over,” said Rojas.

NBI deputy director Virgilio Mendez said the victims may have been reluctant to cooperate with the NBI because they were warned by the scam operators that if they told or brought this information to the attention of authorities, “their investments would be affected and they would not be allowed to join the party.”

Aquino said the AMLC had a similar problem with reluctant complainants.

“We conducted a discreet investigation when we noticed certain red flags in the transactions of these people and like the NBI, we exerted our utmost to convince alleged victims to at least execute an affidavit, to probe the existence of probable cause, that damage was sustained, and that there was deception,” he said.

Nobody came out, however, and under the Anti-Money Laundering Act, the AMLC cannot freeze assets on the basis of a red flag or a mere suspicious transaction, Aquino said.

Pagadian Mayor Samuel Co, who with his wife and 10 others is facing syndicated estafa charges before the Department of Justice, was a no-show at the congressional hearing.

Mendez said that testimonies and documents have “established that (Co) had a direct hand in the operation of this business.”

Zamboanga del Sur Gov. Antonio Cerilles showed up at the hearing and implicated Co. He submitted documents purportedly showing that the mayor had issued three business permits to Aman Futures.

One such permit was issued on July 27, or more than a month after the NBI began investigating the investment scam.

The NBI office in Pagadian has so far received 11,299 complaints against Aman Futures, with combined losses estimated at around P10 billion.

Case vs mayor

A third syndicated estafa complaint was filed against Co last Monday. Included in the latest complaint filed by the NBI was the Pagadian city treasurer and a policeman who served as a bodyguard for Luna.

The first two complaints were filed last Nov. 26 and Nov. 29.

Meanwhile, the special panel tasked to prosecute the syndicated estafa cases against the Aman executives postponed its scheduled hearing today in Pagadian City because of bad weather, according to Prosecutor General Claro Arellano.

Arellano said the special panel will proceed with its Dec. 7 hearing in Cagayan de Oro City on another investment scam by the Rasuman group. With a report from Christine Avedaño

Get Inquirer updates while on the go, add us on these apps:

Inquirer Viber

Disclaimer: The comments uploaded on this site do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of management and owner of We reserve the right to exclude comments that we deem to be inconsistent with our editorial standards.

  • tata_boy

    dapat ng balasahin ang mga ito, pulos mga inutil, nakakahiya kayo.

  • Chloroform

    based on this article, Aman was operating already before all permit requirements are met? this is a common practice for some type of organizations but should not be the case for all…

  • pedronimo

    This is not the first time the SEC has been caught sleeping on its “security guarding” job. The Legacy, the CAP, and the Pacific cases are still stinking to be forgotten. Somehow, somewhere, something is suspiciously remiss in this agency, and to think that it is crowded with commissioners who have specific assignments to vigilantly monitor the operation and activities of these investing firms. The reason is getting obvious: COLLUSION BETWEEN THE SEC AND THE SCAM ARTISTS,

  • randyaltarejos

    Madlang people, gising! It’s not always profits, profits, profits. Use your proper senses, too.

  • isalexus

    “firm also had to be given “the opportunity to be heard.” –Galing!! Paano yung?- naka-alpas na bago ninyo “narinig” ang panig ng mga scammer? Natutulog kayo talaga!!

  • boybakal

    SEC chairperson Teresita Herbosa said the SEC had issued an advisory warning prospective investors against Aman Futures.

    It is just like saying may sunog but di pinatay ang apoy.
    What is the use of the firemen if they cannot control the fire.
    The SEC gave warning to the people but let the Aman Futures operates knowing that they are scam.
    It is a crime of Tolerance.

    • Jake Dionisio

      Too bad there is no crime for stupidity.

  • legislex

    The excuses of these agencies are very lame.  The SEC, NBI and Anti-Money Laundering Council could have used one of their people to pose as “investor” to get evidence against the Aman operators.  They are empowered by law to make immediate arrests and file cases in behalf of the “People of the Philippines”.  By way of example, they usually do this in cases of “buy bust operations” where one of their agents pose as buyers to get evidence against the drug pushers.  As soon as the sale is consummated, arrests are immediately made.  Why can’t they not do it in the case of Aman? They should admit it, natututulog talaga sila sa pansitan.

  • vir_a

    Even if there were no complainants, the SEC was duty-bound to stop the scam. Does it mean that if the business was illegal and there were no complainants, the SEC would just not do something to stop it? I think the whole SEC board should be replaced for their incompetence, indifference and sleeping on the job.

    • Jake Dionisio

      You can’t just stop a business on a mere “hunch” or “bad feeling”. And, if the investors were being uncooperative, what evidence did you have to halt business operations? Yes, I feel abit sorry for them but, frankly, these so-called uncooperative investors got what they had coming.

      • tower_of_power

        Yeah right … what evidence do we have? The regulators were put in place to investigate a hunch or bad feeling … ginawa ba nila yan? If you have a right mind, which our regulators must have, will you not investigate and do something if the investor is uncooperative?

  • cong_lolong

    “Zamboanga del Sur Gov. Antonio Cerilles showed up at the hearing and implicated Co. He submitted documents purportedly showing that the mayor had issued three business permits to Aman Futures.” Where was Gov.Cerilles all the while that Aman was siphoning off the money of his constituents?  He reportedly closed down the operations of small scale miners in Zamboanga del Sur, using the PNP, CIDG,NBI, but failed to close the Aman scam in Pagadian.  “Something” was holding him back?  Maybe Amalilio and Luna, wherever they may
    be, know the answer.

  • $20926843

    It is not far fetched that these agencies were also infected by the NOYNOYING attitude of their inutile and autistic boss in malacanang…….

  • EdgarEdgar

    Talking Points:

    01. SEC and AMLC are using the same convenient excuse — they both claim that existing policies and procedures prohibit them from being proactive and seeking further investigation on their own.

    02. On the part of AMLC, we all know that Commissioner Vicente Aquino is being less than forthright. Truth be told, AMLC could have applied the same zealousness on this scam as they did on Corona’s assets. The impeachment testimonies revealed that AMLC already started snooping into Corona and Arroyo’s assets as early as late 2010, without any complaint or case being filed yet. If internal policies and procedures did not hamper AMLC and Com. Vicente Aquino from being proactive on the case of Corona and Arroyo, what was suddenly stopping him and AMLC on the case of the pyramid scam?

    03. The congressional inquiry should also bring DOJ and Leila de Lima to task. DOJ was similarly alerted of the scam and the tip-off from Ms. Quisumbing of Pagadian City’s Chamber of Commerce as early as April 2012. For eight (8) long months, Leila de Lima could have insructed the NBI to investigate before the scam grew to a P12 billion. And yet no investigation happened, no one from Aman Futures was brought in for questioning . The criminal negligence of DOJ’s Leila de Lima is too glaring to escape public attention and prosecution.

    04. If SEC, AMLC, DOJ & NBI all claim to be hampered by internal policies and procedures that render them reactive, powerless and impotent against ongoing crimes, what happened to crime prevention?

    05. Credit must go to Rufus Rodriguez who is conducting the inquiry in aid of legislation and in aid of May 2013 elections. But too afraid to take on Noynoy’s sacred cows.

    • TheThinkker

      Four major govt agencies you say “hampered by internal policies and procedures”? Should this be viewed as flimsy reasons not to relentlessly pursue the erring persons in this scam? And also run after the ‘sleeping’ govt officials…or pressured-down officials to ease down on the pursuit?

      It is very strange de Lima seemingly losing fire on the Aman case for months and now implicating a whistle blower Mayor Co.

      If Mayor Co is involved, he must have the support of some people higher than him in position. So who is this personality…or personalities???

      Common sense in viewing this given this country’s filthy political track record.

      • EdgarEdgar

        Exactly. Aside from scapegoating Mayor Co and his wife, Leila de Lima even had the gall to fabricate a link between terrorists and the pyramid scam. Nothing could be more ludicrous. Even AFP just scoffed it. At this point, I think only Mayor Co can save himself. He should speak to the media and reveal what he knows about the unseen forces working to implicate him and let the real culprits get away with the loot. P12 billion cannot possibly disappear into thin air. It’s gotta be sitting electronically somewhere onshore, just biding it’s time.

  • tanga_hanga_ni_abnoy

    sabi ni rizal, walang manloloko pag walang magpapaloko

  • coty

    one more time with derisive laughter,
    “just as in the children’s fable, they knew the emperor had no clothes but looked the other way, allowing the fraud to continue”! _ _ Deborah Renner

    • mamer2

      Baka naman ka susyo…?

  • kilabot

    noynoying is real and alive;
    like master, like servant.

  • Felix

    The reasons given by authorities for their inability to act are non-cooperation of victims and absence of complainant and evidence. In cases like these, is it not possible for the authorities to take the initiative to participate in or join the ‘party’ as ‘marked investor’ to be able to  obtain first hand information and evidence and take appropriate fast action to stop the scam? 

    • mamer2

      Another “cope-out” or “palusot” by these crooks in government attire.

  • regd

    Why blame the SEC? The signs were there for people to see, they just refuse to entertain a bunch of red bulbs in their brains warning them of the impending doom! Sometimes people are just too dumb to realize they are really dumb! 

    • mamer2

      the SEC and other government agencies were put in place to regulate these types of business and to weed out the criminal/irregular.
      Your argument…, when applied to prohibited drugs and others “would not hold water”.

  • sam_aquino

    the heads of the SEC, AMLC & NBI should be cited for “dereliction of duty”…  they should NOT get away with just mere “scolding”… severe penalties (according to law) should be meted for officers “sleeping on their jobs”…

  • tower_of_power


    Walang pagkakaiba eto sa gawain ng BFAD allowing drug companies to advertise and sell product with markings … “NO APPROVED THERAPEUTIC CLAIMS”. WHY ALLOW THEM TO SELL THESE PRODUCTS???

  • captainramius

    Mr. Congressman, masyado ka naman OA…. mag research ka muna.   Financial scams like this usually cannot be detected right away until the pyramiding has ran its course.  Tingnan mo na lang yong financial bubble of 2008 sa america kong hindi sumabog di naman na expose yong scammers …beside SEC is not like COA …who audit transactions …

  • captainramius

    Sayang lang pork barrel bayad dito kay Rufus….regulatory power ng SEC limited yan… do they have the facility to verifty the by laws of each corporations in this country and check if what was witten there as their trade business ganon nga ginagawa ?  Even banks which are monitored by BSP submit regular reports and it will take take before bank auditor can detect non compliance …. hindi ganon kadali yan

  • Socorro

    Mr. senators can your scolding give back the lost money of the victims? Why do you need to investigate, we all know that you are only glorifying yourselves for the coming elections.In aid of legislarion daw, eh wala naman kayong ginagawang batas with all your past investigations. You are just riding with the issues and playing with the victims’ emotions. 

  • Gerald Abueva

    The spectacular failure of the regulators to regulate and investigators to investigate reminds me of BFAD. When harmful skin whitening cream from China proliferated in our country, BFAD initially blamed it on Filipinos for valuing fairer skin and for being willing victims. It took some convincing until BFAD realized they were empowered by law and in fact it was within their scope of work to stop the proliferation of popular but harmful products.

    How much convincing and time does SEC, AMLC and NBI need to get into action?

    Note: Worth mentioning din po is Mr. Aquino of AMLC who claims that his agency is not empowered to freeze accounts without any formal complaint. His agency could monitor the fund movement of Aman Futures without freezing it to establish if the entity has enough money, or badly in need of money or just moving things around to look like they have money. Hindi naman po rocket science ito. Eh kung yung taga Pagadian na dating Department of Education na si Ms. Quisumbing was able to determine may hocus pocus based on simple analysis, ano pa kaya kung may access ang AMLC sa asset infromation ng Aman.

    Sabi nga ni Farinas, puro palusot.

  • mamer2

    An advisory warning could be given by any “Tom, Dick or Harry”.

    Government Regulating Agencies are/were put there to protect the public/citizens of this Country.This is what is called “Sleeping on the Job”…., or WORSE.
    Outright inefficient &/or conspirator…!

  • mamer2

    Either “Sleeping on the Job” or Worse.!
    Gravely “IN-efficient or Conspirators”…!
    P10-B + is no peanuts.

  • ADD

    Madami pang pyramid scam (load business) sa pinas, tignan nyo lng facebook nyo, naglipana sila, nag aalok ng malaking kita. Mag ingat kabayan.

  • Darwin

    SEC could have just cancelled theregistration of Aman Futures, that’s it.

  • My mom

    KUNG in-approve lang ng Senado ang revitalized Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA) ni Sen. TG Guingona III, mas mabilis at mas malawak sana ang naging aksyon ng AMLC. The poor folks in Pagadian City were first to pay for the inaction of senators. For as long as AMLA doesn’t have the teeth it needs, other gullible folks from all over will follow suit. Nagkalat ang mga pyramid at Ponzi schemes sa buong bansa.

  • Tausog51

    If Congress, will analyze the performance of the SEC officials, AMLAC, NBI , you will find one common denominator: They were appointed by Pnoy because of connections and recommendations from Pnoys close in adviser and not because they are competent.

To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.

Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:

c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City,Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94


editors' picks



latest videos