Three hundred Bohol residents, along with Bohol Governor Arthur Yap, have enlisted the help of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) to investigate an informal group money-lending scam that took P2 billion.
Aided by the governor, provincial government, and police, a help center for the victims was put up to help address more complainants and investors.
The scam is known as “repa” or “paluwagan”; in what is supposed to be a money-saving practice, a group of individuals who know each other each contributes to a pot of money that will be given to each of the members according to a rotation that is determined by drawing lots of “repa” in Tagalog. This is monitored by a group of “administrators and coordinators” that are hidden from the investors, or “buyers”.
Investors buy slots with the promise that a deposit of P1,000 would grow into P2,500 at the end of the week. The traditional method had more assurance of return on investment since earlier investors would sell their slots. The latest scam required investors to conduct online transactions and that they join designated chat rooms where administrators, coordinators, and investors could conduct business.
The local government unit (LGU) was flooded with complaints with the Chief of Davao City’s Anti-Scam Unit (ASU), Simplicio Sagarino revealing that over 50 people had filed complaints with the department. On October 11, Gov. Yap stated that at least 150 affidavits had been filed by the “buyers and sellers” of the scam.
A woman, claiming to have lost P35 million, traveled to the provincial police headquarters in Camp Francisco Dagohoy to ask for help in retrieving it. The P35 million was to be returned to the “buyers” but was never released due to the administrators and coordinators suddenly disappearing. Remittance of the money would have gone through the “coordinators”.
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Davao Extension office released a statement warning the public of investing in shady programs like these, stating that if a transaction is seemingly too good to be true, then the credibility of the scheme should come into question.
SEC had been experiencing raised alert levels for money scams, especially during the pandemic for people desperate for quick cash.
Photo: The Bohol Chronicle