Manuel Amalilio should face Philippine justice — Anwar Ibrahim
GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc (The Philippine Star) - September 5, 2018 - 12:00am

There’s hope for justice for 15,000 mostly Muslim Filipinos conned of P12 billion by a Malaysian fugitive six years ago. Pyramiding scammer Manuel Amalilio can yet be made to restitute the loot and face jail time in the Philippines. Malaysian Prime Minister-in-waiting Anwar Ibrahim promises to help do so.

“I would certainly get the authorities to reopen the case,” Anwar said yesterday when asked about Amalilio’s escape to Sabah in 2012. The mostly Mindanaoan working-class victims of Amalilio’s Ponzi scheme have been waiting for a break. Their scammer has been untouchable.

As an opposition leader then, Anwar had tried to help Philippine authorities, in vain. Amalilio was so influential with Malaysian officials to be extradited to Manila. But now there’s a chance.

“This was a case of money taken out from here, from the Philippines, from the South,” said Anwar in Manila during a 20-hour visit. “I would be pleased to get the (Malaysian) embassy to look into it so I can take it up with the authorities in Kuala Lumpur.”

Amalilio, posing as a Filipino, had duped 15,000 Mindanaoans and Visayans to invest in his firm Aman Futures. When found out in Nov. 2012 he escaped to Sabah, where he was born as Mohammad Kamal Said. Three months later with the help of Malaysian Interpol, the National Bureau of Investigation took him into custody. At the Sabah airport, however, local police blocked Amalilio’s extradition. Manila denounced the deceit.

It turned out, as Anwar exposed to The STAR then, that Amalilio is a nephew of Sabah’s powerful chief minister Musa Aman. Anwar called on the police to obey the law instead of intervening politicians. On pretext of charging Amalilio with bogus travel documents, Sabah officials detained him – in a hospital. They falsely promised to deport Amalilio after local trial, which never happened.

Amalilio had connections all the way to the capital. His protector uncle Musa was a close ally of then-Prime Minister Najib Razak. Musa’s brother and cousin also were members of Najib’s cabinet and ruling party. In 2014, on pleas by Amalilio’s family, the home ministry dropped the charges against him and revoked the promised extradition. Two of Anwar’s fellow oppositionists who met with prosecutors in Manila ended up with trumped up charges in Sabah. Anwar too was imprisoned for five years on false sodomy raps, after exposing more of Najib’s abuses, including embezzlement of $1 billion from a state financial institution.

Amalilio became the Philippines’ most wanted conman because of the loot, P12 billion, or 895 million ringgit, or $240 million.

“I see no reason why we should defend (Amalilio),” Anwar explained Malaysian justice. “Even if it’s a ten-year-old, fifteen-year-old case, but affects the lives, property, funds of the common people, we need to pursue this.”

In elections three months ago Anwar’s party allied with former PM Mohammad Mahathir to defeat Najib. Anwar’s wife Dr. Wan Azizah won as Malaysia’s first female deputy PM. Days after the poll victory the King released Anwar, with full restoration of rights from the false prosecution. Mahathir has promised to turn over the PM post to him in two years. As Mahathir’s ally he is in a position to help strengthen Malaysia-Philippine ties, including help in the Amalilio case.

Politicians harboring Amalilio lost in that recent balloting. Musa fled to London but is back in Sabah. There were reports that in the election of 2013 Musa used part of Amalilio’s loot to buy votes. Allegedly he issued false citizenships to Western Mindanaoans as flying voters.

“I’m aware of that, I met some of them in the last election,” Anwar said.

He will look into it too: “They have the papers given by the then government. This has to stop. If they are citizens they must be given the right. If they were given the papers prior to elections, as proven in Sabah, there is even a royal commission to this effect, although this is not really transparent too. These are excesses. There were Bangladeshis, Indonesians, Filipinos all coming to vote... The rights of citizens of Malaysia should be respected, whether Badjaos or Tausogs. But those given for political consideration or expediency must not be allowed.”

Anwar is shunning politics in the meantime. But his imprisonment, actually his second, has strengthened his resolve to promote freedom, justice and political accountability.

He has been traveling to thank friends who kept the faith while he was in prison. In the Philippines those include former president Joseph Estrada, ex-national security adviser Jose Almonte, and business tycoon Fernando Peña and family.

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Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8-10 a.m., DWIZ (882-AM).

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