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.”
“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.
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