Looking back at the year of Aman-A A +A
By Tyrone Velez
Wednesday, January 2, 2013
I SPENT the year-end holiday with relatives in Pagadian. Yes, this is the city hit by the Aman scam, perhaps the second tragic event in Mindanao next to Typhoon Pablo in 2012.
The scam made Pagadian a by-word to the rest of the country. One cousin said before no one cares if you come from Pagadian; but now everyone knows and wants to know how the scam happened.
Reeling from the impact of Aman, Pagadian had a quiet and somber Christmas this time around. Less firecrackers, quiet shopping. In the gatherings I attended with family, conversations will go always go back to Aman.
They remember how they and everyone in the city went agog on getting their money doubled in a week from Aman. Everyone was lining up at the Aman office in Kawit District week by week like lottery day. Everyone from lawyers, doctors, teachers, professionals, even the vendors and tricycle drivers, and the politicians. Once inside, everyone was told to turn off cellphones and observe silence, or else their accounts will be closed and their money returned. "Wala gyud mi tinganay sa sulod," said a cousin.
The doubling of one's savings made people felt like instant millionaires. They went shopping at newly built malls like Gaisano, the government-ran C3 or Robinson's supermarket.
"Mingaw ang merkado kay tanan moadto na sa mall," said another relative. Soon Toyota Fortuners were purchased by the dozens, snarling traffic in the rolling hills of Pagadian that were once traversed by tricycles and motorcycles.
In those months, everyone worked like they were in the stock market calculating their earnings. "Hurot ang tanan calculator sa Pagadian," they said.
But then the money stopped cashing out. The Aman owner ran away with the people's savings, pensions, and cash obtained through collateral of their properties. Some relatives were able to get some of their money back, but some did not. Some lost millions, politicians included. Panic, despair and anger came. Suicides were reported. Many checked in to psychiatrists for depression. Robberies rose. Automobiles were confiscated by Toyota.
People blamed local officials who failed to check on Aman but instead, joined the frenzy. Politicians started bashing each other.
Local Aman officials surrendered to authorities out of fear for their lives. They pleaded innocence for they said they too are victims, duped like the rest of Pagadian.
As the most popular song in the country was Gangnam Style, Pagadian had its own version, "Dagan Aman Style."
As 2013 is here, lessons are learned the hard way. Come to think of it, a scam like this may happen again any place, with the same ending. With towns and cities where employment is few and inflation is high, and elites hold monopoly over business, land and politics, people will always fall victim to financial sharks and snakes. And government will only get their acts together when disaster strikes and deaths come, just like in Pablo-stricken Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental.
It should not be enough that people should watch out for themselves. It should be that government has to do the watching for their constituents. As 2013 is election year, it's time to hold politicians accountable everywhere for their neglect, and push an agenda for jobs, farms, schools and health, environment protection to stop scams and disasters from happening again.
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Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on January 03, 2013.