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Senate probe shifts to Ligot brother-in-law

By TJ Burgonio
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 18:04:00 02/24/2011

Filed Under: Military, Graft & Corruption

MANILA, Philippines?This "trader" had no income, but he managed to amass at least P300 million in wealth in five years, purchasing high-end cars and plush condominium units, and maintaining fat bank accounts.

At the resumption of the Senate inquiry into military corruption on Thursday, the spotlight shifted briefly from ex-military comptroller Jacinto Ligot to his brother-in-law Edgardo Yambao.

"He's a mysterious person," said Senator Franklin Drilon, who presented documents showing that Yambao had accumulated vast wealth in a few years' time.

Yambao, like his sister Erlinda, who is Ligot's wife, skipped the Blue Ribbon Committee's hearing on the plea bargain between Ligot's successor, ex-comptroller Carlos Garcia, and prosecutors.

Senate security tried to serve a subpoena on Yambao but failed to locate him, while Erlinda Ligot has been confined at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center in Quezon City since Tuesday because of headaches and abdominal pains.

Ligot is facing a P135.2-million forfeiture case at the Sandiganbayan. His co-defendants are his wife, children Paulo, Riza and Miguel, sister Miguela Ligot-Paragas, and Yambao.

As Exhibit A on Yambao's wealth, Drilon presented an Aug. 18, 2003, deed of sale of a unit in the Essensa East Forbes Condominium Tower in Fort Bonifacio from Erlinda Ligot to Yambao for P25 million.

Unit 19-A in Lawton Tower of Essensa was described in the documents as measuring 290 square meters and having three parking spaces. At present, it is valued at P35 million, the senator said.

Ligot initially denied owning a unit at Essensa, but when shown the deed of sale by Drilon, he said that the signature on the document "appears to be mine."

"This information is now with the Sandiganbayan. This is being heard in the forfeiture case," he said when asked about the sale of the unit to his brother-in-law Yambao.

When pressed further by Drilon, he again invoked his right against self-incrimination.

Grilled this time by Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, Ligot said Yambao, not the Ligots, owned the unit.

"Mrs. Ligot's name was only used. That's part of our defense in the Sandiganbayan," he said, later adding that the unit was "held in trust'' by his wife.

If Erlinda Ligot was the trustee, who was then the principal? "The brother," Ligot said, referring to Yambao.

The answer stumped Drilon, who remarked: "If he's the owner, then he also paid P25 million?" Ligot declined to discuss this because this was part of his defense in a forfeiture case before the Sandiganbayan.

Ligot admitted that he did not disclose the P25-million unit in his statement of assets and liabilities that year, and maintained that there was no exchange of P25 million between the Ligots and Yambao.

Ligot, who was deputy chief of staff for comptrollership from 1999 to 2001, described Yambao's job as a "trader," but could not say if Yambao had been earning enough.

Drilon said it was surprising that Yambao had managed to acquire a unit in a swanky condominium when he did not have any income, and did not file an income tax return in 2003.

In fact, Yambao acquired other properties and maintained bank accounts in the years 1999, 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004, when he did not declare any income and did not file an income tax return, Drilon said.

In 1999, for instance, Yambao also purchased a P1.4 million unit at the Burgundy Plaza on Katipunan Avenue in Quezon City, the senator said. Ligot confirmed that Yambao stayed sometimes in this unit.

Then came Yambao's purchases of a Toyota Highlander for P2.8 million in November 2001 and Subaru Forester for P1.1 million in July 2002, according to Drilon, who presented photocopies of the deeds of sale.

Also, there were deposits in Yambao's name running to P775,380,017 in 2002, $2,389,485 and P20,752,527 in 2003; $305,321.57 and P21,558,127.73, even though he did not file any ITRs for those years, he said.

"Our estimate in cash and assets of Mr. Yambao, your brother-in-law, General Ligot, had about P300 million for those years when he did not file any income tax returns because he had no income," he said, addressing Ligot, who was later taken to the Senate clinic after his blood pressure shot up.

"That's why he's a mysterious person. We've tried to subpoena him. The subpoena could not be served, because he disappeared into thin air," he added, reiterating that Yambao should be summoned again.



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