De Lima dares Duterte: Fire Sandra Cam
Detained opposition Sen. Leila de Lima on Sunday challenged President Rodrigo Duterte to fire former whistleblower Sandra Cam, who allegedly amassed more than P500 million in unexplained wealth after he appointed her to the board of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO).
“Not lifting a finger vis-a-vis Sandra Cam’s well-known shenanigans should shatter your feigned corruption-loathing image and your ego,” De Lima said in a handwritten statement.
“I dare you, Mr. President, to fire Sandra Cam or at least order a bona fide investigation into her alleged amassing of properties worth hundreds of millions of pesos, including an island,” she said.
“That’s a whiff or more than ‘whiff of corruption,’ isn’t it?” she said, referring to Mr. Duterte’s previous warning that he would fire officials he had appointed to government posts even with “just a whiff of corruption.”
Cam vowed to clear her name with the President, dismissing the accusations against her as “pure lies” and “big bull.” She told De Lima to “shut up.”
In a complaint filed in the Office of the Ombudsman, a certain Lino Espinosa Lim Jr. claimed that Cam owned several properties in Masbate province.
Not in SALN
Lim, a resident of Uson town in Masbate, said Cam failed to properly declare her real properties in her statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALNs) for 2017 and 2018.
Cam allegedly concealed her ownership of the properties, including a lavish resort, by registering them under the names of family members Purisima Martinez, Martin Cam and Marco Cam, according to Lim.
In a letter he filed on March 21 through lawyer Israelito Torreon, Lim asked the Office of the Ombudsman to charge Cam with violations of Republic Act (RA) No. 3019, or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, and RA 6713, or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.
Among the properties that Cam supposedly failed to declare in her SALNs were Zandra’s Beach Resort and Convention Center, and two parcels of land at Barangay Pinamoghaan, Ticao Island, in Masbate’s San Fernando town.
Neither did Cam declare five parcels of land on Matabao Island in Batuan town, Lim said.
He also questioned her acquisition of these properties, which he said was done shortly after she was appointed to the PCSO board in December 2017.
“She is thus harboring an unexplained wealth considering the sheer number and the great value of the real properties that she acquired either in her own name or in other persons’ names, the values of which are manifestly out of proportion to her salary as a public official,” the complaint said.
Eviction of residents
Cam also allegedly used her influence on police authorities to evict the previous residents of the island.
“I will never steal even a single penny from the government because my advocacy is good governance,” she told the Inquirer by phone on Sunday night.
Cam, who said she was still recovering from an operation on Friday, planned to submit a letter to the President on Monday to clear her name.
She said she had acquired the properties, including a resort and a school in Cavite province, “even before I joined the government.”
Cam called Lim a man with “no credibility.”
She believed the issue had something to do with former PCSO General Manager Alexander Balutan, who was let go by the President over allegations of corruption in the agency.
“This Lim is facing several warrants for estafa and even carnapping, and they’re using him for this cheap, smear campaign to ruin me,” she said.
De Lima claimed Cam came into the President’s good graces after Cam allegedly conspired with then Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II and Public Attorney’s Office chief Persida Acosta in “concocting lies” against the senator’s supposed role in the narcotics trade inside the state penitentiary.
She said Cam, who had also locked horns with Balutan over corruption allegations, was involved in threatening and pressuring the convicted criminals who had testified against her to carry out the President’s “Destroy De Lima edict.”
She said she would not be surprised if the President’s anticorruption campaign would be compromised by irregularities involving Cam.
“That’s what you get for dealing with hustlers or shady, underworld characters, just to get what you want,” said the senator, a critic of the administration’s bloody war on illegal drugs.
“Watch out, Mr. President, she might just blackmail you also,” De Lima said.
In response, Cam told De Lima to “shut [her] mouth and stop meddling in this cheap smear campaign.”
“They are trying to ruin me [in order] to destroy the President,” she said.
Cam had accused the family of House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo of pocketing payola from the illegal numbers game “jueteng.”
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