Then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo received a total of P345 million in a single day from Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) barely a month before she stepped down from Malacañang, Pagcor chair Cristino Naguiat Jr. said on Wednesday.
Naguiat said the huge sum was deposited to the President’s Social Fund (PSF) on May 28, 2010.
“The money was actually the share of the government from the earnings of Pagcor for the month of April 2010 and advance remittances for June 2010,” Naguiat told reporters at the Department of Justice (DoJ).
Naguiat said the issue was brought to the attention of Pagcor by Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares at a budget hearing in the House of Representatives on Tuesday.
Just four days before the checks were issued, Naguiat said Arroyo also received P80.2 million, again from Pagcor’s income for April 2010.
Jay Santiago, Pagcor chief legal counsel, said the sum was apparently a “last hurrah” for Arroyo.
Santiago said the money was “possibly intended” to replace the canceled checks worth P185 million that Pagcor had prepared as “financial assistance” for all the barangays of the six municipalities in the province of Pampanga’s second district, where Arroyo is now its representative in the House.
He said the checks were prepared on May 26, 2010, but were revoked on the same day.
“There’s a great possibility that the money remitted to the (PSF) was actually meant to cover the sum which was to be given to barangays in Pampanga,” Santiago said.
P1M for each barangay
Naguiat said the checks were canceled after the media reported it.
“The Pagcor board ordered the issuance of the checks as financial assistance of P1 million for each of the barangays in Pampanga,” Naguiat said.
However, he said then Pagcor chair Efraim Genuino and the board did not cite the specific use of the financial assistance.
Check vouchers showed that Pagcor was supposed to give P44 million to Arroyo’s hometown of Lubao, P33 million to Floridablanca, P12 million to Sasmuan, P31 million to Guagua, P10 million to Sta. Rita and P29 million to Porac.
Naguiat said P215 million of the money for the PSF was an advance remittance of the state-owned gaming firm’s projected income for June 2010.
“But that money should have been deposited in July 2010 to be utilized by the new Aquino administration,” he said.
Asked if the transaction was anomalous, he replied: “For now, I cannot say if that transaction was anomalous. We’ll just let the COA (Commission on Audit) make that determination.”
Santiago said Pagcor would ask the Presidential Management Staff to check if the P345 million was spent judiciously.
In three separate letters dated May 28, 2010, Genuino informed Arroyo that Pagcor was turning over the sum to the PSF from the “net cash income” from government-run casinos.
“We trust that you will find everything in order,” Genuino said in the letter which was signed on his behalf by then Pagcor president and COO Rafael Francisco.
In one of the letters, Genuino said Pagcor was remitting P130 million as government share of the profits for April 2010.
He said the amount, as reflected in Pagcor check 173093, was in addition to the P95.6 million that Pagcor already gave to the PSF for the same month.
In the two other letters, Genuino said the state-run gaming firm was turning over P45 million and P170 million, contained in Pagcor checks 173094 and 173095, respectively, as “Pagcor’s advances to the Office of the President.”
The letter did not indicate for what month the advances were being made.
The much-awaited face-off between Genuino and Naguiat did not happen on Wednesday as the former Pagcor chair skipped the preliminary hearing at the DOJ in connection with P186-million plunder suit that the latter had filed against his predecessor.
Benjamin Santos, Genuino’s lawyer, said his client’s presence was not needed at the hearing since they have yet to read the copy of the complaint and prepare a counteraffidavit.
The DOJ panel, headed by Assistant State Prosecutor Edna Valenzuela, gave Genuino and other respondents until Sept. 7 to file their respective counteraffidavits.