MANILA, Philippines - The preliminary investigation into plunder charges filed by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR), through its chairman Cristino Naguiat, Jr., against former PAGCOR chairman Efraim Genuino and 40 others before the Department of Justice (DOJ) began this afternoon.
Naguiat, who was present during the hearing, said he is confident Genuino and company will be pinned down for the alleged alleged misappropriation of some P186-million of PAGCOR funds from 2003-2010.
"Kitang kita ang paglustay ng pondo. Nag-donate ang PAGCOR [then] sa BIDA Foundation, tapos ang BIDA Foundation naging BIDA party list kung saan first nominee ang anak ni Genuino na si Sheryl Genuino-Sy," Naguiat said.
In a 127-page complaint filed last July 11, PAGCOR alleged that "respondents purportedly conspired with each other to repeatedly and systematically siphon off PAGCOR funds into the coffers of BIDA entities, or to projects intended to boost the popularity of BIDA Foundation and/or the personalities behind it."
BIDA Foundation was accredited by the Commission on Elections(COMELEC) in November 2009 as a regional sectoral party in the National Capital Region(NCR) which allowed it to participate in the May 10, 2010 party-list elections.
The state-owned gaming firm alleged that in spite of the granting of its petition as a party-list group, the "Genuino-led PAGCOR Board continued to approve financial benefits and privileges in favor of BIDA."
These questioned transactions "were approved or executed in violation of PAGCOR's internal procedures, did not go through public bidding which is a requirement of Republic Act 9184, and violated COA rules," the new PAGCOR management claimed.
Charged along with Genuino are PAGCOR Board Members Rafael Francisco, COO and President; Manuel Roxas, Philip Lo, Danilo Gozo, Imelda Dimaporo, Ester Laconico Feria, Susana Dumlao Vargas, incumbent National Telecommunications Commission(NTC) Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba; Jose Benedicto(former chief of staff); Rene Figueroa(former executive vice-president); Edward King(former VP for Corporate Communications and Serviced Department); Atty. Carlos Bautista Jr.(former VP for Legal Department); Ester Hernandez(former VP for accounting); Valente Custodio(former AVP for Internal Audit); Atty. Jesselyn Durante Cuizon(former asst. manager of Legal Department); Erwin Genuino(former executive asst. of Legal Department); and former PAGCOR consultants Mario Cornista, Rodolfo Soriano Jr., Tomas Toledo, and Emilio Marcelo.
BIDA Foundation incorporators/members charged include Jesus Velmonte, Cornelio Valerio, Nicanor Roxas, Michael Nisperos, Arnold Garchitorena, Angelo Tesoro, Jose Salindong, Johnny Tan, Philip Beltran, Luis Guerrero, Carol Matsuda, Olive Soriano, Josephine Sumangil-Evangelista, Manuel Nocon, Jr., Dennis Celeste, Ronald Tagayon, Adriano Velmonte, Rafael Torcuator and Anna Maria Espiritu.
Sheryl Genuino-See, Genuino's daughter and first nominee of the BIDA party-list, was also charged.
The Genuinos were a no-show in the first hearing, but were represented by their counsel, former Justice Undersecretary Ramon Esguerra.
Esguerra told ABS-CBN News he will raise before the DOJ panel the issue of his clients' possible double jeopardy since they are also separately charged of malversation of public funds for an alleged offense that may be subsumed by the charge of plunder.
"That is unfair for my clients because malversation of public funds is a contributory element to plunder and my clients will suffer from double jeopardy if they are subjected to one proceeding for plunder, and in a separate proceeding, for malversation," Esguera said.
Genuino and several others were charged in June before the DOJ for malversation of public funds and violation of the Anti-graft and Corrupt Practices Act for the disbursement of some P26.7-million for the production of the movie "Baler" in 2008.
Apart from Genuino, also named as respondents in the case are Rafael "Butch" Francisco, former PAGCOR president and chief operating officer; former Board members Manuel Roxas, Philip Lo and Gamaliel Cordoba(now Commissioner of the Telecommunications Commission); Jose Benedicto, former PAGCOR chief-of-staff; Rene Figueroa, former executive vice-president; Edward "Dodie" King, former senior vice-president for Corporate Communications and Services Department; CArlos Bautista, Jr., former vice-president for Legal; Esther Hernandez, former vice-president for Accounting; Valente Custodio, former Assistant vice-president for Internal Audit; Jesselyn Durante-Quizon, former assistant manager for Legal; former Executive Assistant Erwin Genuino, son of Ephraim Genuino; BIDA Foundation officials Mario Cornista, Rodolfo Soriano Sr., Emilio Marcelo, Philip Beltran, Luis Guerrero, Olive Soriano, Jesus Velmonte, Carol Matsuda, Los Banos, and Laguna vice-mayor Josephine Sumangil-Evangelista; as well as officials of VIVA Communications, namely Vicente del Rosario Jr, chairman and CEO; Marcia Gina Lopez, corporate secretary; Hermie Go, associate producer and road manager; Ma. Theresa Santiago, comptroller and accountant; and Tony Magtoto, sales and distribution representative.
PAGCOR alleged payments made by Bida to VIVA productions representing its share in the production cost were "eventually charged to PAGCOR through committed ticket sales."
However, during the hearing, PAGCOR officials clarified to the panel that the complaint stemming from the production of the movie, Baler, is different from the offenses alleged against respondents in the plunder charge.
More time needed for defense
The Genuinos, through counsel, meantime asked the DOJ panel conducting the preliminary investigation to grant them more time to file their counter-affidavit[s].
"We have not even received a copy of the complaint itself as well as the voluminous attached annexes," Esguerra pointed out.
The DOJ panel is composed of Assistant State Prosecutors Edna Valenzuela, Christine Perolino and Zenamar Caparros.