Philippines - Tribal people who sold mine lands lose money

By: Melvin Gascon, Inquirer Northern Luzon -
Date of publication: 
4 July, 2015

300 who sold mine lands lose P40M

Tribal folk who got paid to allow mining duped in investment scam

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya—At least 300 people have fallen victims to an investment scam, most of them members of the Ifugao tribe who had invested the proceeds of the sale of their land rights to a foreign-owned mining project in Kasibu town in Nueva Vizcaya province, the National Bureau of Investigation said.

The NBI has warned people against falling for the get-rich-quick schemes of a syndicate, whose members are operating in Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino, Ifugao and Benguet.

Lawyer Benshee Apolinar, chief of the NBI district office here, said the suspects took P5,000 to P300,000 from their victims, promising a return of 30 percent and payback in two weeks.

“The suspects are known to the victims, who are mostly Ifugao. Since they belong to the same tribe, they were made to believe that their deals were legitimate,” Apolinar said.

NBI agents estimated that a total of P40 million had been collected by the group from the victims, among them college students, housewives, farmers, small traders, professionals and government workers.

The main suspect, Laribel Attaban, allegedly began her trade in Didipio village in Kasibu, recruiting people from families who had received payments for selling their lands occupied by the gold-copper project of OceanaGold Philippines Inc.

Investors were made to fill out a supposed deposit slip that carried the heading “Family Futures,” indicating the amount invested and the date of maturity. They were told to present the slip when claiming their money and earnings.

Attaban and two other suspects, Amilyn Tayaban and Leah Guinolwayan, who supposedly represented a company called Family Futures, allegedly lured more victims by making them witness actual payouts to a number of clients.

“It looked very tempting because they saw how bundles of cash were casually handed out to the first set of investors, whose money grew in just a matter of days,” said NBI special agent Agustin Bataclao.

By word of mouth, Ifugao residents from Didipio soon convinced their friends and relatives in other areas to join the investment venture.

From January to May, the operations of Family Futures expanded. Operators set up offices in Solano town here, in Diffun town in Quirino, in Lagawe town in Ifugao and in La Trinidad in Benguet.

But people began trooping to the NBI office here to file complaints after failing to get their money’s earnings at the specified date.

“When their investments reached the maturity date, they went to the office of Family Futures but the suspects could no longer be located, and their offices were already closed,” Bataclao said.

Since last month, the NBI has filed at the Department of Justice charges against the suspects for multiple estafa, based on complaints of more than 100 victims from Nueva Vizcaya and Quirino.

“We are also preparing the charge sheet for about 100 complainants from Ifugao,” he said.

The scam has left many of victims distraught.

A housewife from Didipio decided to invest P60,000, which she and her husband kept as savings from their sale to OceanaGold of a parcel of rice land in the subvillage of Dinauyan.

“I did not immediately tell my husband because I wanted to surprise him. It was too late when I found out that it was a scam,” she said.

A mother from Didipio cried as she narrated how her two children failed to enroll in college last month because the money that she had kept for their tuition and other school needs was lost in the scam.