The filing of a case for plunder and malversation of public funds is being considered against former officials of the National Police Commission (Napolcom) as well as the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) for pulling off what seemed to be one of the biggest land deals in history involving more than seven hectares of prime government property in Fort Bonifacio, the ownership of which was surreptitiously “transferred” to a property development firm, Megaworld Corp.
Documents obtained by The Manila Times from the Office of the Ombudsman and the Taguig City Regional Trial Court indicated that the group of former Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) director Rogelio Asignado had argued that the Joint Venture Development Agreement (JVDA) forged between the government and Megaworld could make those behind the deal liable for plunder and other high crimes.
Asignado and a number of other former high-ranking uniformed officers have already filed a graft and malversation case against former Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno and BCDA chief Narciso Abaya and other Napolcom officials for entering into a “disadvantageous” contract with the company owned by businessman Andrew Tan.
“But the case we filed with the Ombudsman was temporarily dismissed pending the resolution of the petition we filed in Taguig City, where our case has been sitting for five years already,” Asignado said.
Earlier, he raised suspicions that powerful individuals are conspiring to keep the matter under the rug because the billionaire Tan has a lot of political connections as he is known to be one of the top campaign donors of certain politicians.
Tan has business interests in real estate, liquor and fast food. In 2011, Forbes magazine rated him fourth on the list of the “Philippines 40 Richest” with an estimated net worth of $2 billion. As of this year, he is estimated to have a personal fortune of over $5 billion and ranks 3rd in the country.
The case at hand involves the property where the Philippine Public Safety College (PPSC) used to hold court. Asignado was the former vice president for administration of the PPSC.
The petitioners alleged that the land deal, forged during the incumbency of Puno in the Department of the Interior and Local Government, which has administrative jurisdiction over the PPSC, shortchanged the government because Tan’s group would only spend a paltry sum compared to the 50-year “perpetual alienation” granted to him to use the questioned property, which is said to be worth more than P20 billion at present.
At the time when the JDVA was approved, the lot was assessed to be worth at least P100,000 per square meter (sqm), far below the P45,000 per sqm that was awarded to Tan’s firm.
“This is an anomaly far bigger than the pork barrel scam and yet we’re alone in this. We continue the struggle no longer for the government to repossess the land but to expose this lopsided and highly disadvantageous deal,” Asignado said. He was referring to the P10-billion Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam involving misuse of public funds that was investigated by Congress.
Asignado suspected that there could be a concerted effort to suppress the case because the judiciary and even Congress were too “scared” to touch it.
“We have since filed a motion for reconsideration on the declaratory relief filed with the Taguig Regional Trial Court. If the court decides to junk it again, then we will bring the case to the Supreme Court,” the former BFP chief said.
“The respondents are afraid that the case may reach the SC because it is where the real battle would begin,” Asignado added.