MANILA -- Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on Tuesday refused to comment on former Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Secretary Rogelio Singson's denial of any involvement in the alleged PHP8.7-billion right-of-way (ROW) scam in General Santos City.

“That’s his (Singson) statement. “Let’s wait for the termination of the investigation by the NBI and the Senate before we make a conclusion or opinion,” said Aguirre sought for a comment.

Facing the Senate last Monday, Singson, in his opening statement, said that it was not true that he profited from fake land titles under the name of nonexistent people.

Apart from the ongoing inquiry on the scam by the Senate public works committee chaired by Sen. Emmanuel Pacquiao, Aguirre has already ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to probe the anomalies which allegedly took place in General Santos City.

Aguirre learned from whistleblower Roberto Catapang Jr. that the syndicate involved in the scam submits fake land titles of non-existent owners to allow them to claim from the DPWH just compensation for the expropriation of lands which will be occupied in various government road projects.

Catapang has already been placed under the Witness Protection Program (WPP).

Those who would be found liable could be prosecuted for committing crimes under Republic Act 3019 otherwise known as the “Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act”.

The criminal syndicate purportedly submitted fake titles in the name of non-existent persons to allow them to claim from DPWH just compensation from the expropriation of land supposedly occupied by government projects.

Catapang said Eldon Cruz, brother-in-law of former President Benigno S. Aquino III, had endorsed the release of payments for the supposed bogus RROW claims.

Catapang, who hails from General Santos City, said he joined the syndicate back in 2009 but left the group.

He said since then the syndicate collected PHP8.7 billion from around 300 bogus RROW claims in Gen. Santos City.

The whistleblower said the properties were covered by specious land titles and other documents which he and other members of their group had manufactured in connivance with corrupt government employees.

He, however, admitted that he never met Cruz nor saw him speak with public officials to help facilitate multimillion-peso transactions at the DPWH and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

Singson and former DBM Secretary Florencio Abad are among those who are being investigated and have been included in the Bureau of Immigration’s Immigration Lookout Bulletin (BI-ILBO).

Aguirre said the allegations in the sworn statement of Catapang including the amount taken from government coffers, are serious allegations that should be looked into in line with the President Rodrigo Duterte’s directive to wage war on corruption, then and now. (PNA)