Stop paying right-of-way claims, DPWH urged
Nine congressmen from Central Mindanao urged Public Works Secretary Mark Villar to withhold payment of road right-of-way (ROW) claims amid a controversy involving billions of pesos.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said he obtained a copy of the congressmen’s joint letter to Villar urging the public works department to stop the payments.
The letter was signed by Deputy Speaker Ferdinand Hernandez of South Cotabato, Deputy Speaker Bai Sandra Sema of Maguindanao, North Cotabato Representatives Jesus Sacdalan, Nancy Catamco, Jose Tejada, South Cotabato Rep. Pedro Acharon Jr., Sultan Kudarat Representatives Suharto Mangudadatu and Horacio Suansing Jr., and Sarangani Rep. Ruel Pacquiao.
“The letter sought to inform Secretary Villar and (Department of Public Works and Highways [DPWH] regional director) Basir M. Ibrahim that, owing to the numerous transactions involving billions of pesos of public funds concerning right-of-way claims … the immediate withholding of the claims should be done,” Aguirre said.
The congressmen wrote the letter after whistleblower Roberto Catapang Jr. claimed that Eldon Cruz, a brother-in-law of former President Benigno Aquino III, allegedly “backed” a syndicate behind the P8.7-billion scam and allegedly helped them in expediting the release of funds from the Department of Budget and Management.
Aside from Cruz, former Budget Secretary Florencio Abad and former Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson were also allegedly aware of the racket and had benefited from it.
The two former Cabinet officials denied the allegations with Singson dismissing it as an offshoot of “a fight among agents.”
“We will expose who Mr. Catapang is. He is asking for his share of commission from the land claimants which apparently he was not able to get,” Singson said.
Catapang, who admitted earning huge kickbacks from the supposed scam which he and other members of a syndicate started during the Arroyo administration in 2009.
He said that their group processed and facilitated the payment for ROW settlements with the DPWH using bogus documents.
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