MANILA, Philippines—The Court of Appeals has frozen 141 more bank accounts in connection with the P12-billion Aman Futures Group Phil. investment scam, which duped around 15,000 investors earlier this year.
Of these bank accounts, 79 belong to Pagadian City Mayor Samuel Co and 29 to Co’s wife, according to Julia Bacay-Abad, Anti-Money Laundering Council deputy director.
Abad told the House committee on banks and financial intermediaries that the AMLC would still determine how much was covered by the frozen bank accounts, which were included in the supplemental petition filed by the agency before the CA last Dec. 7.
Co, who is facing at least three syndicated estafa cases, skipped the committee hearing for the second time.
As authorities continued to dig deeper into the extent of the investment scam, Deputy Director Virgilio Mendez of the National Bureau of Investigation told congressmen that at least three cooperatives and some parents-teachers’ associations had invested money in Aman Futures.
Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez assailed the Department of Justice for failing to file cases against Aman officials. He noted that it had been two months since the DOJ had created a special panel of prosecutors to handle complaints.
“It’s been two months,” he said. “Don’t tell me the DOJ is also sleeping on the job.”
Iloilo Rep. Arthur Defensor Jr. raised the possibility of tightening existing laws to penalize “conspirators” in investment scams who end up presenting themselves as “victims.”
“How about the matter that the victims here are not really victims but conspirators?” he asked. “That in itself should be made an offense, if it is not yet covered by the Revised Penal Code.”
Special Prosecutor Edna Valenzuela, head of the special DOJ panel, replied: “Basically, the term ‘knowingly participating in a scheme,’ there’s already a law on that, that’s why there is a term ‘co-conspirators.’”
“However, for the idea that an investor be impleaded as a co-respondent, I am not so sure if that would be a very fair (consideration),” she added.
Defensor said some purported investment scam victims “take the gamble” knowing they could withdraw their investments ahead of the others.
“They’re not the victims. They’re the ones who victimize the others who don’t know,” he said. “Why would you believe that you’ll get 30-percent interest in a matter of weeks? That does not happen. Of course they know that, and they take the gamble.”