Payoff issue: House panel won’t summon GenuinoBy Christian V. Esguerra
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—So what if the payoff happened two years after?
Bayan Muna party-list Representative Teodoro Casiño on Thursday urged the House committee investigating allegations of malfeasance to summon former Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) Chairman Efraim Genuino and his purported bagman, Rodolfo Soriano, to its next hearing on an alleged bribe they received from Japanese billionaire Kasuo Okada’s Universal Entertainment Corp.
But Rep. Amado Bagatsing, chairman of the committee on games and amusement, agreed to invite only Soriano, a former Pagcor consultant, saying there was nothing to link Genuino to the bribery charge “so far.”
“We will invite Soriano in the meantime because there is still no link with Genuino so far,” Bagatsing told the Inquirer in a text message.
At the committee’s initial hearing on Wednesday, Bagatsing appeared cool to the idea that Soriano, or Genuino, had pocketed $15 million in combined payoffs made in 2010—two years after Okada’s Tiger Resort Leisure and Entertainment Inc. secured a provincial license to operate from Pagcor.
Tiger was among four companies allowed to operate casinos in Entertainment City, which is being built on 120 hectares of reclaimed land on Manila Bay.
“I don’t know if any businessman would do that, pay off an outgoing (official), and you already had a license for the last two years,” Bagatsing had said at the hearing.
“These people have reputations to protect, so give us reasons to really compel them to attend,” he had added.
But Casiño, the chief proponent of the House inquiry, said “the inconvenience to Soriano and Genuino is nothing compared to the need to know the truth.”
“Does it matter if the payoff happened two years later? These projects are constantly under review, and the license was provisional, always subject to review,” he said.
“I hope the committee considers this serious issue that’s worth more than the inconvenience of the two,” he added.
“Sometimes for a project of this magnitude, they let the (payoff) sleep first,” Casiño said in Filipino. “But the fact that there was a payoff should be a cause for concern.”
At the hearing, Tiger general manager Masahiro Terada briefed the representatives on the cases filed in Tokyo by Okada against three former employees over the separate disbursements of $5 million and $10 million to companies identified with Soriano.
Terada said the $5 million represented a “guarantee fee.” A Reuters report on November 16 said the money went to People’s Technology Ltd., a company that listed Soriano as its sole owner.
The $10 million was allegedly moved to Subic Leisure and Management Ltd.