PAGCOR 'midnight deals' probed

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 16 2010 09:28 PM | Updated as of Jul 18 2010 06:35 AM

MANILA, Philippines - As part of the Aquino government's crackdown on corruption, all public offices will be audited, starting with the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR), where a number of suspicious cash disbursements have been discovered recently.

PAGCOR spokesman Jay Santiago said they are now investigating transactions made under the leadership of former PAGCOR chairman Efraim Genuino.

Among these are the P5 million monthly allowance given to over 200 consultants of the agency, and a P29-million donation to BIDA Foundation Inc., the party-list that fielded Genuino's daughter, Sheryl Genuino-See, as its first nominee in the May elections.

While PAGCOR has the right to donate to non-government organizations, Santiago said this should be done without conflict of interest.

Genuino, in a statement to ABS-CBN News, claimed that disbursements made by PAGCOR during his term were all legal.

"Consultants are important in the operations of PAGCOR. There was nothing wrong with hiring them, and donating funds to BIDA Foundation. We did not do anything illegal. The new management of PAGCOR is just putting malice into these transactions," Genuino said.

Early this month, just after new PAGCOR chairman Cristino Naguiat assumed his post, the agency foiled the unauthorized encashment of a P21.1-million PAGCOR check by a former employee of the gaming firm.

ABS-CBN News' Ted Failon, in an exclusive report, said the release of the check was endorsed twice by former PAGCOR senior vice president Edward King.

In his memoranda dated May 13 and June 16, 2010, King said the P21 million was for Philippine National Police (PNP) "activities and operations in line with its thrust to provide security to the population."

However, the receipts used to reimburse the hefty amount consisted of food purchases made by the police for a period of 9 days.

Santiago said PAGCOR has started an investigation into the matter.

He added they are also looking into possible midnight deals entered into by Genuino before he stepped down.

Genuino, an appointee of former President Gloria Arroyo, resigned even before President Aquino assumed office on June 30.

The Aquino administration is already planning the privatization of PAGCOR, which has been criticized for its alleged corrupt practices.

Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima said this plan in now under review. But he admitted the move could be costly for the government since PAGCOR is one of its major revenue contributors.

Data from the Bureau of Treasury showed that PAGCOR remitted P1.6 billion to the government in just the first 2 months of the year.