Viral story gives Aquino his first spurious plunder rap
Former President Benigno Aquino III is facing a corruption complaint that stemmed from a fake article that has gone viral.
A plunder complaint has been filed against Aquino for the alleged illegal shipment of gold based on a spurious bank circular that made the rounds on social media.
Lawyers Fernando Perito and Rogelio Cantoria filed the complaint in the Ombudsman against Aquino, his former Interior Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas II, former justice secretary and now Sen. Leila de Lima, former Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, former Senate President Franklin Drilon and Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Gov. Amando Tetangco Jr.
The said complaint noted conflicting figures: $141.3 million or $143-million worth of gold shipment, and named De Lima “finance secretary” and Roxas “secretary of the Department of Nutrition and Local Government.”
It cited a BSP circular No. 49 series of 2014, which was approved on Dec. 22, 2014, regarding the transfer of 3,500 metric tons of 99.999-purity 12.5-kilogram gold bars shipped from a Union Bank of Switzerland account under the name of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
The alleged circular was signed by De Lima, Roxas, Drilon, Purisima and Tetangco.
“The above gold billions were transferred unlawfully by the respondents from the Union Bank of Switzerland last December 2014 to the Bank of Thailand using Centennial Energy (Thailand) Company Limited as the connecting and receiving link without the approval, knowledge or acquiescence of the Filipino people as the registered owner and of the Philippine government through a congressional imprimatur,” the complaint said.
The said BSP circular cited a Republic Act No. 7655 which purportedly stated that the “Centennial Energy (Thailand) Company Limited has given the authority to produce and issue the United States Dollars currency.”
Republic Act No. 7655, however, is an “act increasing the minimum wage of househelpers,” as stated on the website of the Philippine Commission on Women.
The bogus circular also mentioned a Republic Act No. 7735 which allegedly stated that the funds from the US currency would be used “for humanitarian projects and for Asean countries.”
The cited law, however, is in fact an “act establishing a national high school in Barangay Poblacion in the municipality of Mawab, province of Davao, to be known as the Lorenzo S. Sarmiento Sr. National High School,” according to the website of the Official Gazette.
This circular was published on fake news sites Definitely Filipino and Trending News PH File, which also circulated stories linking the alleged gold shipment to the existence of Marcos’ Yamashita treasure.
In an interview with reporters, Perito claimed he obtained the spurious circular from the government through the freedom of information (FOI) policy.
“We were able to get all of these and then we followed it up. We believed in the FOI and we’re able to get that, and eventually, this group of lawyers asked us to file this case, and we would think this case would be pursued until the end,” Perito said.
In their complaint, the lawyers alleged that the shipment of the gold and printing of US dollars violated existing banking laws, and that the 3,500 metric tons of gold bullion were “robbed from our own Central Bank.”
They also said a certain Patrick Lami, an “ill-gotten assets chief recovery officer,” confiscated in December 2014 the 3,500 metric tons of gold valued at $141.3 million or P6.8 trillion shipped to the Bank of Thailand using the Centennial Energy Thailand Limited.
The complaint went on to say that the gold was obtained by Marcos during World War II.
The lawyers called the shipment of gold the “grandmother of all plunders” to finance Roxas’ and De Lima’s “political campaigns.”
“The honorable Ombudsman must not delay the investigation of this case, it being of national interest and for economic survival of the country,” their complaint said.
In an emailed statement, BSP General Counsel Elmore Capule said the circular was fake because the central bank’s circular No. 49 was dated Sept. 20, 1994, and not Dec. 22, 2014.
The counsel also noticed the erroneous Republic Acts cited in the circular, adding that the production of US currency notes was outside BSP’s authority.
“A cursory examination of the said document readily shows that it is spurious for the following basic reasons,” Capule said. RAM