Senate close to unmasking road scam brains
The Senate is close to unmasking the brains behind the P8.7-billion scam involving fake road right-of-way (ROW) claims in General Santos City as a joint panel resumes its inquiry on Tuesday, Sen. Richard Gordon said on Sunday.
“We expect more names to crop up as we resume the investigation. We need to put an end to this long-simmering racket of ROW payments and a long, long racket of fake titles being issued right under our noses,” said the chair of the Senate blue ribbon committee.
Tuesday’s hearing will be the third in the joint investigation between Gordon’s panel and the committee on public works chaired by Sen. Manny Pacquiao, who requested that it be held in the Mindanao city.
In a statement, Gordon said the March 23 hearing in General Santos City was “enlightening” as the senators were able to identify some of the names involved in the scam.
Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III was also present at that hearing.
Gordon said the joint committee was determined to see all those involved in the scam to be charged in court.
“We will make recommendations upon the termination of the hearings on possible charges that may be filed against any person,” he said.
He did not name anyone, but the joint panel was looking into the possible involvement of “some government officials in syndicates operating particularly in General Santos City,” who sought ROW compensation using fake land titles.
Land titles manufactured
After the second hearing, Pimentel said the Senate was about to unmask the people behind the scam that might include personnel from the local Assessor’s Office and the Department of Budget and Management.
He said the modus of the syndicates was to manufacture land titles that were already covered by the highway and then claim for just compensation of road ROW.
Using only a special power of attorney and deed of assignment, the syndicates were able to make a claim.
According to Pimentel, these syndicates would not have succeeded in making false claims without the help of people inside the City Assessor’s Office, local and regional offices of the Department of Public Works and Highways, Land Registration Authority and the Commission on Audit (COA).
Pieces of land being offered for the government’s ROW acquisitions are virtually the size of Boracay, or about 10.32 million square meters, according to real estate experts.
6,000 fake titles
Some 6,000 fake land titles are reportedly in circulation in General Santos City.
During the March 23 hearing, Gordon said representatives from the Bureau of Internal Revenue and the COA were present and took note of the testimonies of resource persons.
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