MANILA - The camp of embattled Pagadian City Mayor Samuel Co has denied reports he is allegedly attempting to bribe Department of Justice (DOJ) prosecutors to downgrade syndicated estafa cases against him in connection with his alleged involvement in the multi-billion Aman Futures scam.
Co's spokesperson, Atty. Trixie Angeles, told ABS-CBN News that his client is confident the charges will be dismissed based on the plain reading of the law, thus, there is no need to resort to any tactics to win his case.
"We deny all of that, we are confident that the cases will be dismissed... There's no need for the mayor to do anything outrageous as this," she said.
Reports have it that Co is allegedly offering P5 million to each prosecutor handling the preliminary investigation of the complaints against him pending at the DOJ, and P10 million to Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Edna Valenzuela, chairperson of the special panel constituted to hear the Aman Futures cases.
Angeles said politics may be behind the "false information." Co is running for a congressional post in the May mid-term polls under the ruling Liberal Party.
"We are not surprised that there are accusations like this because, of course, it's election season... We would not resort to any act that would compromise our position," she said.
Several complaints for large-scale estafa were filed against Co and his wife, Priscilla, by alleged victims of the Aman Futures scam.
The complainants allege that Co was part of the scheme that lured investors to put their money into the firm; some complainants alleged that Co personally received their investments while others claimed their investments were received by the mayor's staff at city hall.
One complaint pointed out some investors deposited their investments in an account under the name of Priscilla Co.
Angeles, however, maintained that the mayor, himself, fell victim to the Ponzi scheme. She bared that while Co invested some P300,000 in Aman Futures, his family poured in a total of P40 million, more or less, into the firm.
Co's camp also said that the mayor had initially revoked Aman Futures' license since it only covered merchandising, and held on to their permit until they complied with the proper documentation.
De Lima: Our prosecutors are credible and will not accept bribe
Justice Secretary Leila De Lima said that the allegation of Co's alleged bribe try is "serious," and that she will look into the matter.
"I will look into this, it's a serious allegation. I don't believe it... We can assure you of the integrity and probity of the members of the [Aman Futures investigating panel]," she told ABS-CBN News.
"Rest assured, the Aman Futures cases, including the ones involving Mayor Samuel Co, will be resolved without fear or favor. Prosecutor General Claro Arellano is closely monitoring all the Aman Futures/Rasuman (syndicated estafa) cases, including those involving Mayor Co," she added.
Aman Futures, founded by Manuel Amalilio, is allegedly responsible for a pyramiding scam amounting to P12 billion from 15,000 investors mostly from the Visayas and Mindanao.
Aside from complaining investors, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filed a complaint against the firm and its responsible officers for violations of Republic Act (RA) No. 8799, also known "The Securities Regulation Code."
In complaint filed last November with the DOJ, the SEC accused Aman Futures of violations of Sections 8 and 26 of the said law.
Sec. 8 on Requirement of Registration of Securities states that "[securities] shall not be sold or offered for sale or distribution within the Philippines, without a registration statement duly filed with and approved by the Commission."
Sec. 26, meantime, states that "[i]t shall be unlawful for any person, directly or indirectly, in connection with the purchase or sale of any securities to: employ any device, scheme, or artifice to defraud; obtain money or property by means of any untrue statement of a material fact of any omission to state a material fact necessary in order to make the statements made, in the light of the circumstances under which they were made, not misleading; or engage in any act, transaction, practice or course of business which operates or would operate as a fraud or deceit upon any person."