Senate probe on P8.7-B RROW ‘scam’ in GenSan resumes Friday

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 12 March) — The Senate blue ribbon committee will resume here on Friday, March 16, its investigation into the alleged P8.7-billion road right-of-way (RROW) “scam” in the area.

Dominador Lagare III, supervising legislative officer of the office of Senator Emmanuel Pacquiao, said Monday four senators have already confirmed to attend the scheduled Senate hearing at the city council’s session hall.

LONELY CLIMB. A worker braves the inclement weather as he installs new sets of streetlamps along the national highway in General Santos City 30 June 2014. File Photo by ROMMEL G. REBOLLIDO

He said these are senators Vicente Sotto III, Juan Edgardo Angara, Gregorio Honasan and Pacquiao.

Senate blue ribbon committee chair Senator Richard Gordon, has yet to confirm his attendance as of Monday, he said.

The office of Senator Pacquiao, who initiated the conduct of the Senate inquiry on the RROW controversy last year, has been coordinating the preparations for the senate inquiry.

The initial hearing, which was held at the Senate, was facilitated by the committee on public works chaired by Pacquiao.

“If Senator Gordon will not be available, Senator Pacquiao will preside over the hearing,” Lagare said in an interview over radio station Brigada News FM.

Lagare, a former city councilor here, said they have finalized the preparations for the Senate hearing, which will be aired live on national television and Internet streaming.

He said among the invited resource persons are officials of the city assessor’s office and the registry of deeds as well as regional and national officials of the Department of Public Works and Highways and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

The “scam’s” whistle blower Roberto Catapang Jr., who hails from the city, has confirmed to attend the hearing, he said.

Lagare said Pacquiao pushed for the conduct of the Senate hearing here since the controversy happened in the city and involved individuals as well as offices based in the area.

He said it will allow the Senate blue ribbon committee to gather the needed documents and verify the areas covered by the supposed fake RROW claims, which included road expansion projects in portions of the national highway in Barangays Batomelong to Lagao, Calumpang, Tambler and Labangal.

These include the validation of the cadastral map on the RROW claims previously presented by the DENR, he said.

“During the previous hearing, some resource persons failed to present the necessary documents since they were reportedly left in their offices here in Mindanao. So that will be addressed by the hearing here,” he said.

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II disclosed last year the alleged scam involving some P8.7 billion in RROW settlements in the city and neighboring areas based on supposed fictitious and fabricated documents.

He had directed the National Bureau of Investigation to investigate the scam, which was based on revelations made by Catapang.

Catapang had said the fake claims were made by a syndicate that he was previously a part of and involved some prominent personalities. (MindaNews)