House probes GenSan road right of way scam

The House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability chaired by Rep. Johnny Ty Pimentel (2nd District, Surigao del Sur) on Tuesday deliberated on House Resolution 1551, which calls for an investigation on the alleged payments made by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to road right of way (RROW) claimants who used spurious land titles.

The resolution is authored by Rep. Pedro Acharon Jr. (1st District, South Cotabato).

Former DPWH Secretary Rogelio Singson is facing graft charges filed by National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) because of the alleged P8.7 billion RROW scam. However, he explained during the hearing that the complaints against him were filed without legal basis.

“There is really no legal basis for the charges filed against me. The filing, validation, verification, and approval of all the land claims were done prior to my tenure as DPWH Secretary. I cannot be faulted for relying on office reports, especially after we had an extraordinary due diligence. Pinaulit pa namin ‘yong proseso,” Singson told the Committee.

Deputy Speaker Ferdinand Hernandez conveyed to the panel that Singson is not likely to commit such crime.

“Probably the last accusation na pwedeng ibato kay Secretary Singson ay corruption. I’ve known him and during his tenure, we have done so much. I don’t think he will bother himself to be involved in such a scam. Unfortunately, nakalagay ‘yong pangalan niya doon. But his reputation precedes him,” he said.

Hernandez questioned concerned agencies, including the NBI, the Land Registration Authority (LRA), the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Commission on Audit (COA) regarding the recurrence of the anomaly despite its being questionable.

“If I look at the documents before me, it’s so obvious that when you’re dealing with these people, you know them. Kung paulit-ulit na ‘tong mga taong ‘to nakikipag-transaksyon sa inyo, eh ‘di ba red flag na ‘yan? Pare-pareho ang SPA (special power of attorney), pare-pareho ng kumokolekta. Alam na alam naman natin na talagang may problema ‘yong road right of way sa Region 12, bakit tinuloy pa rin?” he asked.

DOJ Assistant Secretary Sergio Yap II assured the panel that they will investigate the RROW, including those in other regions to finally put a stop to the scams. He noted that the billions of pesos involved could have been used on other projects.

Commission on Audit Director Susan Pace-Donalvo disclosed that the COA obtained similar audit findings in 2012 and 2016 that claimants were receiving payment even with incomplete documents.

“If they continue to do this, obviously, may usapan ‘yan. Ang lakas naman ng loob mong i-process ‘yan, eh may problema na pala ‘yan,” stated Hernandez.

Hernandez then recommended inviting the DPWH regional management committees involved in the process of validating documents and recommending to the central board those that will be included in the RROW.

“Para malaman natin ang responsibility ng bawat isa. Kasi ‘yong mga nag-rely sa kanila, kawawa naman dahil wala naman silang alam na you allowed this to happen. Nagiging victims ‘yong mga taong wala namang kinalaman dito,” he explained.

Pimentel also moved to subpoena other involved individuals, including operators Wilma Mamburam and Nelson Ti as well as Evelyn Paloso who is the representative of the claimants.

Yap told the committee that the DOJ will also submit the list of concerned personalities and their involvement in the case. Monel Gonzales

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