Sandra Cam

Public works scam eyed in Mayor’s slay

Public works scam eyed in Mayor’s slay
By Niña Calleja, Marlon Ramos, Mar S. Arguelles
Philippine Daily Inquirer, Inquirer Southern Luzon

MANILA, Philippines—Investigators Tuesday vowed to look into allegations that anomalies in public works projects may have been behind the murder of “jueteng” whistle-blower Wilfredo “Boy” Mayor and said one person they would talk to was an Albay construction magnate.

Police said they were also looking into claims that Mayor had been involved in gambling activities, including small-town lottery in the Bicol region.

Senior Supt. Raul Petrasanta, Pasay City police chief and head of a special task force investigating the murder, said investigators who had been sent to Albay would “definitely talk” with Bicol-based realtor Elizaldy Co.

A fellow whistle-blower, Sandra Cam, said Mayor had mentioned a certain “Zaldy Co” as having benefited from public works projects in the area.

Co, chair of Sunwest Construction and Development Corp., denied in a statement the other night having had business dealings with Mayor and said it was unfortunate that his name “is being dragged into the controversy.”

DPWH denial

“It’s part of the task force’s agenda in Bicol. We will ask few questions of Co and then see if Sandra Cam’s statement is making sense,” Petrasanta told the Inquirer over the phone.

Asked if Co was a powerful man with connections to government officials—as he is rumored to be—Petrasanta said: “We still don’t know as of the moment.”

In Legazpi City, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) office rejected the statements made by Cam—and also by retired Archbishop Oscar Cruz—claiming the agency was involved in anomalous projects.

DPWH-Bicol regional director, Danilo Manalang, said the allegations were baseless and irresponsible and added that his office was open to a full-dress investigation.

No deal with Mayor

In a press conference, Manalang said there were no “ghost” infrastructure projects being implemented by his agency as all projects passed through the bids and awards committee (BAC) at the DPWH central office.

He said that DPWH technical personnel strictly checked project proposals based on specific project design, program of work, monitoring and quality control.

Manalang also denied Mayor had transacted any business with the DPWH regional office, saying that the 3M Construction firm owned by Mayor was not listed on the rooster of accredited firms allowed to do business with the agency.

No favoritism

Regarding allegations that a few big-time contractors were cornering the projects, Manalang explained that there were only few firms qualified to implement big public works projects.

He named the three construction firms classified under the so-called Triple A license category as Sunwest Construction, Philworks and GCI Construction. Firms belonging to this category are allowed to contract projects worth more than P300 million.

Interviewed separately, Philippine National Police Director General Jesus Verzosa said members of the investigating task force were now in Albay to pursue their probe.

“It’s possible that the task group would invite him (Co) or get his statement for us to ascertain our theories,” Verzosa said in reply to a question by the Inquirer.

Not singled out

The PNP chief, however, said Co was not being singled out in the probe.

Mayor supposedly told Cam during a conversation that Sunwest had benefited from irregularities in the bidding for infrastructure projects.

Among Co’s business interests in Albay were the posh Misibis Resort and Embarkadero commercial district, both in Legazpi City.

The three policemen sent to Albay were to meet first with local police officials who may know some details about Mayor.

“We will dig up everything about (Mayor’s) life one by one,” Petrasanta added.

Financier named ‘Flower’

The head of the Metro Manila police office, Director Roberto Rosales, said investigators had also received information alleging that Mayor had been involved in gambling and that portions of earnings from the small-town lottery were supposedly channeled to him.

Rosales also said that a video footage from a casino in the City State Tower Hotel in Pasay, where Mayor had been before he was killed in an ambush on Sunday, showed him talking to a certain person known as “Flower,” an alleged gambling financier.

Rosales refused to give details about “Flower,” saying this was still subject of investigation.

Petrasanta described ‘Flower’ as a woman.

Mayor was shot dead by motorcycle-riding men while in his Volvo car on his way home from the casino.

“We are still analyzing other video footages if there were people whose actuations were suspicious,” Rosales said.

Mayor, a former confessed operator of the illegal numbers game known as jueteng, burst into prominence in 2005 when he testified in the Senate and linked President Macapagal-Arroyo’s elder son, Rep. Juan Miguel Arroyo, and police officials to a protection racket. The congressman denied the allegation.

Cruz willing to cooperate

Bishop Cruz said the killing of Mayor had sent a chilling message to other whistle-blowers and that he was willing to cooperate with investigators and tell them what Mayor had confided in him shortly before he was killed.

“Even if what I know is hearsay, the hearsay that came from someone who knew he would be killed has value,” Cruz said at the Ilustrado forum in Manila. “I’m not the only one who knew he would be killed.”

Cruz has said that Mayor told him he was planning an exposé about a big private corporation in Albay that supposedly corners all of government road projects in the area. The projects were funded by “pork barrel” funds.

He said he had seen the list of government officials who had dealings with the corporation and that the list contained eight or nine names. He did not elaborate. With a report from Leila S. Salaverria

Cops eyeing 3 motives behind Mayor murder

Cops eyeing 3 motives behind Mayor murder
By Mar S. Arguelles, Niña Calleja
Inquirer Southern Luzon, Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—His widow suspects that his planned exposé on public works anomalies was behind the murder of her husband.

But police Monday said they were looking into three possible motives for the killing of “jueteng” whistle-blower Wilfredo “Boy” Mayor.

Wiping away tears, Cherry Mayor said that her husband had expressed concern to his friends about some people in Bicol cornering huge infrastructure projects.

“I have learned that my husband had been advocating a transparent implementation of infrastructure projects,” she told the Inquirer in an interview in the Mayors’ house in Daraga town in Albay province.

“He even had differences with officials from the Department of Public Works and Highways and big private contractors allegedly getting big projects from the DPWH.”

Cherry did not mention the names of the DPWH officials and the private contractors.

She said she could not categorically point to the brains behind the killing “but these were the issues that confronted my husband, and I leave this case to the authorities and (I am) very hopeful that they [will] solve it soonest.”

‘Ghost’ projects

Retired Archbishop Oscar Cruz of the Diocese of Lingayen, in an interview over a Legazpi radio station, voiced similar suspicions.

Cruz said Mayor visited him on Feb. 24 and asked for his advice concerning irregularities in some public works projects in Bicol which Mayor would like to expose through the media.

Cruz said Mayor mentioned “ghost” construction projects and “tulay na drinowing” (fictitious bridge), including projects funded under the Countryside Development Fund of legislators.

Palace reacts

Mayor first created a sensation in 2005 when he testified in the Senate that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s elder son, Pampanga Rep. Juan Miguel “Mikey” Arroyo, had received payoffs from operators of the illegal numbers game jueteng. The Arroyos denied the allegations.

Malacañang Monday sounded sure that Mayor’s murder was over business matters.

“Everything points to a construction bidding controversy in Albay that Mayor was involved in,” deputy presidential spokesperson Gary Olivar said in a statement.

Referring to Mayor’s previous testimony on jueteng payoffs, Olivar said: “We hope that the usual rumormongers in the opposition will refrain from peddling their innuendos on a matter as serious as this.”

22 gunshots

While investigators wrestled over the motive, one thing was apparently clear: Mayor was the sole target of Sunday’s ambush on a Pasay City road and that his motorcycle-riding assassins pumped 22 bullets into the car he was riding to make sure he did not survive.

Kept at the Pasay police parking lot, the black Volvo 850 car bore at least nine bullet holes on the right side of the windshield and more than 10 on the passenger’s windows, mostly on the right side.

“The assailants concentrated on one passenger who was at the front seat next to the driver and that was Mayor. They made sure of his death and showered him with 22 bullets,” said Senior Supt. Raul Petrasanta, Pasay police chief and head of a special task group investigating the case.

Heavily tinted but…

Police said the killers must have seen Mayor and his companions leave the casino of the City State Tower Hotel and board the car, before the shooting. Thus, even if the car was heavily tinted, they knew where he was seated, police said.

The Volvo had stopped at a traffic light when four men on two motorcycles sprayed the right side of the car with bullets.

Mayor’s son-in-law, Alan Benedict Castro, was wounded while a nephew, Rommel Mayor, was unscathed.

Co denial

Asked if the police were considering the statements separately made by another whistle-blower, Sandra Cam, Petrasanta said they would if she was willing to cooperate.

Cam said in a radio interview that Mayor was supposed to reveal alleged dubious contracts of the DPWH in Bicol and ready to come out with evidence. She said that according to Mayor, only one contractor, a “Zaldy Co,” was benefiting from the project.

In a statement Monday night, Elizaldy Co, board chair of the Sunwest Construction and Development Corp., said Cam should “refrain from using my name in media interviews as I am a private businessman.”

“It is unfortunate that my name is being dragged into the controversy of the passing away of Mr. Wilfredo Mayor,” Co said, adding his Sunwest firm had “no business dealings whatsoever” with Mayor.

Other angles

Petrasanta said the police were not limiting their probe to one angle.

“Because he was a contractor, we will look into who were the people he had been dealing with, what were his projects with the government, finished or unfinished, and whether he had incurred debts,” he said.

Petrasanta said police were not ruling out the jueteng angle but added “it was not likely because he laid low after he testified at the Senate.”

Supt. Rommel Miranda, spokesperson of the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO), refused to discuss the three angles the police were looking into, saying he did not want to preempt the outcome of the probe.

Cherry told the Inquirer her husband showed no death premonition but exhibited signs of restlessness days before he was shot.

“The last time I personally talked with him was on Feb. 17 when he left for Manila to attend to some business matters there,” she said in the interview in Albay, where she has been a barangay chair since 2007.

He was secretive

Cherry also remembered her husband saying that he and his son-in-law Alan had visited Bishop Oscar Cruz and told him certain important matters.

“My husband was so secretive about his business affairs. I learned about his personal and business concerns from other people close to us,” she said.

“Though remote, the jueteng exposé was a possibility [as a motive]. It’s possible that they just let it cool down,” Cherry said.

But she said she had a strong feeling the planned exposé on the public works projects was the stronger motive.

Mayor’s remains lay in state in their home in Barangay Tagas. He will be buried on Saturday at Pristine Memorial Garden in Albay.

Aside from his wife, Mayor is survived by three children—Marlon, 35; Mischelle, 30; and Maybell, 28—and four grandchildren. With reports from Christine O. Avendaño, Leila B. Salaverria and Miko Morelos

‘Jueteng’ whistle-blower killed in Pasay road attack

‘Jueteng’ whistle-blower killed in Pasay road attack
By Miko L. Morelos, Leila Salaverria
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—The whistle-blower who linked President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s elder son to an illegal numbers game at a Senate inquiry was shot dead on Sunday morning by men on two motorcycles.

Wilfredo “Boy” Mayor was ambushed at about 4:30 a.m. while the heavily tinted Volvo he was riding in was on a full stop at a red light on MIA Road in Pasay City.

Mayor, 54, a former bank employee and confessed “jueteng” lord in Albay province, had just come from a meeting at a casino in Malate, Manila.

Doctors at San Juan de Dios Hospital on Roxas Boulevard declared him dead on arrival, police said.

Mayor suffered multiple bullet wounds in the body and head.

At the crime scene, police recovered 18 shells of an M-16 rifle and two shells of a .45 cal. handgun.

Mayor’s car, which probers kept as evidence, bore 22 bullet holes, half of which were on the windshield. At least six bullets pierced the windshield in front of the passenger side where Mayor had sat.

Mayor’s son-in-law, Alan Benedict Castro, and nephew, Rommel Mayor, survived the attack. Castro is being treated at the hospital for injuries.

Castro, whom police investigators interviewed in the emergency room, said he and the Mayors were on their way home to BF Homes in Parañaque City in a Volvo 850 from a casino in Malate.

On MIA and Domestic Airport Roads where the car waited for the traffic signal to change, at least four men on two motorcycles pulled up and opened fire at the car’s right side, Castro told investigators.

Mayor was severely wounded in the first volley of gunfire, while Castro, who was driving, managed to open the door on his side and sought cover on the road.

A bystander found Castro and brought him to the hospital for treatment of bullet wounds in the abdomen and right thigh.

Mayor’s nephew, who was seated in the back, took the car’s wheel and ran the traffic light, police said.

Upon reaching MIA and Chapel Roads, he stepped out of the car, hailed a cab and brought his uncle to the hospital.

Mayor’s body was brought to Rizal Funeral Home in Pasay City for autopsy. The Philippine Daily Inquirer tried to seek comment from relatives waiting for the victim’s body, but they begged off.

Ominous feeling

Just days before he was gunned down, Mayor had an ominous feeling that something was going to go wrong, according to his close friend Sandra Cam.

Cam, herself a witness in the exposé on jueteng, appeared to know of a possible suspect behind the death of Mayor, saying he was a “big person.” But that was all she wanted to say for now, since she herself is fearing for her safety.

“I don’t want to talk. We would be going up against a big person,” a weeping Cam said on the phone, when asked if she knew of any threat to Mayor.

Devastated

Cam, who said she was not in Metro Manila when the Inquirer reached her, sounded devastated at what befell Mayor, whom she considered her brother.

“Please help my brother” were her first words when asked about Mayor’s ambush.

She said she last talked with Mayor on Saturday night, and quoted him as telling her that he had a bad feeling. “‘I’m worried, sister, I’m really anxious,’” she recalled Mayor as saying.

“I scolded him. I told him, ‘Wherever you are, just stay there. Take care of yourself.’ He told me to take care of myself,” she added.

Cam said she was worried about her safety and had asked police officials in the province where she was to provide her with security.

Like Mayor, Cam is a member of the Whistle-blowers Association, an organization put up by witnesses to the scandals that had beset the Arroyo administration.

The association acts as a support group for its members, whose normal lives were disrupted after their exposés and most of whom are now battling financial and security problems.

Another whistle-blower, albeit in a different case, has also become concerned about his and his family’s well-being after Mayor was gunned down.

Dante Madriaga, who linked the First Family to the scandal-ridden National Broadband Network deal with a Chinese firm, said he would ask the Senate to bring back his security detail because of the risks that he and his young children could face.

Madriaga said he was worried because Mayor traveled with security escorts, while he and other whistle-blowers took public transportation.