By ARGYLL CYRUS B. GEDUCOS
The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) confirmed yesterday the arrest of four fake members of newly elected President Rodrigo Duterte’s transition team, who duped a bank of P1 million allegedly for Duterte’s thanksgiving party in Davao City on Saturday.
The NBI-Anti-Graft Division (AGD) said they filed on Thursday a case of estafa against Jerico Sauco and his three companions Reinyl Funa, Aubrey Pineda, and Paul Gulinao, all of Valenzuela City, after their arrest in an entrapment operation Wednesday morning in San Pedro, Laguna.
Sauco and his companions were caught by NBI agents withdrawing P300,000 from his bank account at an EastWest Bank branch in the area.
According to the NBI, a man who introduced himself as Peter Laviña, Duterte’s campaign spokesperson and a member of his transition team, called the BPI main office in Quezon City and solicited donations worth P1 million.
NBI added that the said amount was to be used for two events in Davao City – the Senior Citizens Day on Wednesday and Duterte’s thanksgiving party on Saturday night.
Investigation disclosed that the suspects have already withdrawn P700,000 out of the P1-million donation on May 31 from the same bank branch in San Pedro.
In its affidavit, BPI said a liaison officer called the main office and told a senior BPI officer that Laviña would call and will be soliciting donations.
However, after the unnamed BPI officer made the deposit to Sauco’s account, they received another call, saying that the Peter Laviña they spoke with was an impersonator.
The Bureau said that Sauco and his group admitted that they were not in any way related to Duterte or Laviña or were they part of Duterte’s transition team.
Sauco reportedly told the NBI that he was just asked to withdraw the amount by the waste management company he is applying into.
NBI is also calling on other individuals who may have fallen victim to Sauco’s group.
NBI is now coordinating with the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) and Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC). They are now also investigating the identity of the said liaison officer.
NBI said the liaison officer may be someone with authority as he was able to make the BPI believe that Laviña would be calling.
Meanwhile, Laviña in a statement said that he was thankful that “the long arm of the law finally caught up with the sinister groups and individuals duping the public by using his name to solicit donations from hapless victims.”
Laviña added that he had known about the extortion activities of unknown groups using his name since even during the campaign period. He said this was the reason why he released statements in both mainstream and social media not to entertain any solicitations as this was not his style.
“These people are not only after easy money, they are trying to besmirch my name and that of the incoming President,” he added.