Sleepless in Pagcor: P1B for coffee alone
It fittingly perked up a speech that dragged on for almost an hour.
President Aquino’s remark about past officials of state-owned Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) who apparently had too much coffee to drink practically jolted the audience halfway through his State of the Nation Address on Monday.
“In Pagcor, the previous management apparently spent P1 billion on coffee alone. At P100 per cup, that would be 10 million cups of coffee over the last several years,” the President said in one of the portions of the speech alluding to purported anomalies in the past administration.
“Where did all that coffee go? Who drank it? Perhaps we can find the people who consumed all that coffee and ask if they have been able to sleep in the last few years,” he added in Filipino, drawing laughter among legislators and VIP guests in the gallery.
Of late, the former Pagcor management had been a repeated target of Mr. Aquino’s antigraft campaign.
In a span of one month, four cases have been filed against former Pagcor officials led by then chair Efraim Genuino.
The most recent was a criminal case filed on July 18, in which Genuino and four others were accused of diverting some 3,500 sacks of donated rice to bolster the mayoral bids of his sons Erwin and Anthony in the May 2010 elections.
Earlier this month, current Pagcor chair Cristino Naguiat also sued his predecessor and 41 others for plunder after they allegedly “siphoned off” over P186 million in Pagcor funds to support the election bid of the party-list group of Genuino’s daughter, Sheryl.
Last month, 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.
The President delivered his speech up-tempo and with hardly any pause between sentences. Applause was at times mild and scattered.
Spectators on the third floor gallery complained that Aquino tended to speak softly toward the end of his sentences, making it difficult to get the totality of what he was saying.
While some listeners like former Sen. Ernesto Maceda were busy taking notes, some House members didn’t hide their boredom.
Parañaque Rep. Roilo Golez and Makati Rep. Abigail Binay were seen taking souvenir pictures with their phone cameras during the speech.
Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., son and namesake of the late dictator whom the President’s mother challenged and succeeded in 1986, flipped through the pages of some reading materials on his desk.
At one point, Ferdinand Jr. and his mother, Ilocos Rep. Imelda Marcos, showed no emotion when Mr. Aquino mentioned his administration’s goal of “giving due compensation to the victims of martial law.”
An attentive Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista was seen constantly nodding in approval as the President spoke.
Before Mr. Aquino’s arrival for the Sona, the House session hall was abuzz with lawmakers, their spouses and other VIP guests engaging in small talk after a monthlong recess in Congress.
Some of the lawmakers’ wives took group photos, with the plenary rostrum bedecked with pink flowers as their backdrop.
The “reunions” were so engrossing for some that they hardly noticed when the giant video screen inside the hall began showing President Aquino’s arrival.
They only broke up when members of the presidential honor guard began taking their positions inside the hall.
Entering the Batasan main building through the rear entrance, Mr. Aquino hardly looked at House Minority Leader Edcel Lagman when the two men shook hands.
The President then proceeded to the Batasan guest room where he was received by Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr.
Also in the VIP box for the Sona were Vice President Jejomar Binay, former Presidents Fidel Ramos and Joseph Estrada, former Speaker Jose de Venecia and Cristina Ponce Enrile, wife of Senator Enrile.
Former Senators Coseteng, Santanina Rasul and Heherson Alvarez were given choice front seats next to those reserved for current Senate members.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.