Probe sought as Aman investors lose hard-earned savings | Inquirer Business

Probe sought as Aman investors lose hard-earned savings

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines–Retired school supervisor Cristituto Potayre of Pagadian City had hoped to triple his hard-earned retirement pay after 30 days when he invested in a scheme ran by Pasay-based Aman Futures Group Phils. Inc.

But his money “vanished into thin air” instead, Zamboanga del Sur Gov. Antonio Cerilles recounted. Cerilles said Potayre, apparently unable to accept his fate, committed suicide one day.

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Marcia Agueda, 48, a Pagadian City resident, said her soldier-neighbor put in P300,000 he had secured as loan from the Armed Forces of the Philippines Savings and Loan Association after having been convinced that it would become at least double after a certain period. She, however, refused to give the name of the neighbor.

“He could only vent his ire on plants after losing his money in Aman,” Agueda said, apparently referring to a report the neighbor went berserk and ripped out the crops planted on his property.

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Like her soldier-neighbor, Agueda also lost some P1.3 million in the investment scheme that Aman–ran by Manuel Amalilio, who is said to be of Filipino-Malaysian descent–had trumpeted.

Agueda said what might have prompted more people to invest in the scheme was that many had actually earned money from their initial cash pool.

“I had initially invested P100,000 and it doubled after the first month. I was enticed to pour in more, about P1.3 million. Many people invested with me. We lost our money,” she said.

A 53-year-old housewife, who requested anonymity, lost her husband’s AFPSLAI loan of P700,000 in the Aman scheme.

But what worries her more was that her husband, a Marine officer assigned in Cotabato, had enticed other Marine officers to also invest.

In all, their group lost P3.7 million in September when Aman defaulted on payments.

“(Aman) said it was only closing due to its failure to renew its permit of operation in Pagadian City,” she said. But their money was never returned.

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The housewife, who requested anonymity for personal reasons, said what made her case worse was that she had nothing to prove she invested in Aman. “All my receipts had been turned over to an Aman staff,” she said.

So when Pagadian Mayor Samuel Co announced that all those with original receipts will be issued checks, the housewife said she could only sigh in despair.

Then the checks that Co had issued bounced for lack of funds.

Cerilles said Co must be instrumental in the operation of Aman in Pagadian City.

“He is simply not an investor because when Aman shut down, he assured the people they can get their money back,” he said.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer repeatedly tried but failed to get Co’s comment. He had not returned calls or answered text messages the Inquirer sent to his mobile number.

Cerilles said the Aman scheme was a very serious matter that needs deeper investigation, which should lead to the prosecution of those behind it.

“A few days ago, a pandemonium erupted in Barangay Kawit (Pagadian) as thousands of individuals converged near the office of Aman Trading.

Evidently the trading has ceased to operate, defrauding thousands of investors of their hard earned money, most of whom are ordinary citizens.

What made the situation more confusing is the entry of the City Mayor of Pagadian, who claimed to be authorized to distribute checks issued by  Aman Trading,” Cerilles said in a letter he sent to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).

“The extent of the scandal was so grave that ordinary people like farmers, teachers, vendors, fishermen, soldiers, lawyers, housewife and prominent people were victimized,” Cerilles said.

The exact number of people supposedly victimized by the Aman scheme is still being determined but Cerilles said that in Pagadian City alone, it would easily reach 8,000.

They included members of the Pagadian City Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Macapagal Pantaran, a chamber official, said he lost a total of P263 million in the scheme.

“More than 90 percent of businessmen in Pagadian City have invested with Amalilio,” Pantaran said.

The scheme was so attractive that even a religious group pooled in its members’ money.

Pastor Hipolito Paner of the Christ the Lord of Glory group said at least 1,000 of their members managed to raise P800 million and put it in Aman.

Paner urged Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II, who came to Pagadian City on Friday, to help the defrauded investors run after Amalilio and other Aman officials.

Roxas was also told that there were reports many local government units in Mindanao also used their Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) to invest in Aman.

Roxas pledged to look into the report and said he would order an audit of the IRA of some LGUs, including Pagadian City.

“This is sad but we will do our best to prosecute those involved,” Roxas said.

Chief Supt. Mario Yanga, deputy director for administration of the Western Mindanao police, said the investigation into Aman’s activities was being spearheaded by the NBI.

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