It was a birthday gift former Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) chair Efraim Genuino certainly would not wish for.
Pagcor officials on Monday filed yet another criminal case against Genuino and four others, this time for allegedly diverting some 3,500 sacks of donated rice to bolster the mayoral bids of his two sons during the May 2010 elections.
Interestingly, the complaint was filed with the Department of Justice as Genuino marked his 62nd birthday.
Asked if it was their “birthday present” to Genuino, Pagcor chief legal counsel and spokesperson Jay Santiago said: “Parang ganun na nga (Something like that).”
Along with Genuino, also sued for malversation of public funds were his sons Anthony and Erwin, former Pagcor corporate communications chief Edward “Dodie” King and Miraflor Tado, a former official of Trace Computer College that the Genuinos purportedly owned.
Erwin, a former Pagcor counsel, lost his mayoral bid in Makati City to Jun-jun Binay, son of then Mayor and now Vice President Jejomar Binay.
Erwin’s younger brother, Anthony, won the mayoral race in Los Baños, Laguna, amid allegations that he was not a resident of the town.
The complaint was the fourth criminal case filed against Genuino and other past officials of the state-owned gaming firm since last month.
Jorge Sarmiento, Pagcor president and chief operating officer, said the respondents facilitated the diversion of rice donations intended for typhoon victims to boost the electoral campaigns of Anthony and Erwin.
Sarmiento said the donations were part of 300 metric tons of “first-class Thailand rice” worth P1.4 million which the Japanese gaming company Aruze Corp. gave to the Philippine government after Typhoon “Frank” ravaged the country in June 2008.
The Inquirer tried to get Genuino’s reaction, but he did not answer calls and text messages to his mobile phone. Anthony declined immediate comment while calls to Erwin’s camp drew no answers.
In an interview last year, Genuino said the rice was “donated to me personally” by Aruze through the help of a “kumpare” (close friend) who, he said, was a senior official of the Japanese company.
Genuino accused his successor in Pagcor, current chair Cristino Naguiat Jr., of “demonizing” him.
“It was me who donated the rice to Pagcor. Why would they accuse me of illegally distributing the rice which I actually owned?” Genuino told the Inquirer then. He refused to answer when asked if he had documents to prove his claim.
A staffer from Anthony Genuino’s municipal office in Los Baños said the mayor “has no comment yet as he doesn’t exactly know what is the specific complaint.”
Corespondent Tado also said it was premature to comment as she still had not received a copy of the complaint.
“This shipment of rice was donated for the victims of Typhoon Frank but were used for the electoral campaign of Genuino’s sons,” Sarmiento told reporters.
He said the donations were placed in 10,000 sacks, each weighing 30 kilograms.
“The respondents conspired with one another to misappropriate public property and funds,” he said in a 19-page complaint submitted to Prosecution Attorney Monica Liwag.
According to Santiago, the state-run gaming firm initiated an investigation of the alleged irregularities in the distribution of the donated rice after the issue came out in the media.
In August last year, several Pagcor employees told the Inquirer that Genuino verbally instructed King to bring the rice shipment from the Port of Manila to Pagcor’s warehouse in Imus, Cavite.
The employees claimed King directed them on Dec. 23, 2009, to transfer the rice from the Cavite warehouse to a private rice miller in Biñan, Laguna, where the rice was remilled.
“We pursued those reports and found out that the donated rice was indeed illegally diverted for the campaign of Genuino’s sons as attested by some Pagcor personnel,” Santiago said.
Citing Pagcor records, Sarmiento said 6,500 sacks of rice were turned over to the Department of Social Welfare and Development on July 8, 2008, for distribution to individuals displaced by the typhoon while the rest were taken to the warehouse in Imus.
Aside from allegedly misappropriating the donated rice, he said Genuino and King approved the payment of some P1.6 million for the warehousing, cargo and repacking of the staple.
Since they were stored in the warehouse for more than a year, most of the donated rice was already supposedly rotting when Genuino ordered King to remill it.
Santiago claimed Genuino and King then agreed to a “barter trade” wherein the rice miller replaced the remilled donated rice with the much cheaper “Angelica rice.”
The rice was then repacked into smaller 5-kg sacks printed with the names and faces of Erwin and Anthony, who both used the catchphrase “Ang Bagong Mukha” (The New Face) as their campaign slogan.
The repacked rice was then allegedly distributed in Los Baños and Makati to aid the mayoral bids of Genuino’s sons.
Owned by Japanese billionaire Kazuo Okada, Aruze was awarded by Pagcor with a contract to build a hotel-resort complex inside the proposed 12-hectare Pagcor Entertainment City on Manila Bay during Genuino’s incumbency.
A news release on Pagcor’s website said the rice shipment was donated by Okada’s company to Pagcor. The article included a photograph showing Genuino and then Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro receiving the donation from Okada.
Just last week, Naguiat sued his predecessor and 41 others for plunder after they purportedly “siphoned off” over P186 million of Pagcor funds to aid the election bid of the party-list group of Genuino’s daughter, Sheryl.
Pagcor also lodged a complaint against Genuino, his son Erwin and more than 25 others for the alleged anomalous allocation of P26.7 million for the production of the 2008 movie “Baler.”
Former Sen. Nikki Coseteng and Pagcor officials also filed graft charges against Genuino et al. in the Office of the Ombudsman for the alleged misuse of about P30 million allocation for the Philippine Aquatic Sports Association. With reports from Niña Calleja in Manila and Maricar Cinco, Inquirer Southern Luzon