MANILA, Philippines?The question is why Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) bought El Shaddai leader Mike Velarde?s pricey condo units which may just end up as casino raffle prizes.
Pagcor employees were not consulted before the agency bought 66 units worth P268 million from the Velarde real estate firm, Maricar Bautista, the company?s assistant vice president for corporate communication, said Tuesday.
Bautista said that the employees, the purported beneficiaries of the deal, were unaware that the agency was buying the condominiums in Parañaque City from the Velarde-owned Amvel Mansions Condominium.
?There were no consultations. The people here do not know how and when (the deal) started,? Bautista said in an interview.
She said Pagcor, under its then chair Efraim Genuino, bought the condominiums in 2008 for P3.4 million up to P5.11 million each. The purchase was purportedly made to provide employees with decent and affordable housing.
The new Pagcor management has offered to sell the units to its employees at zero interest with a 20-year repayment period, but Bautista said so far ?there are no takers.?
?There were seven employees who expressed interest but that?s it. There?s nothing final,? she added.
Bautista said if no employee came forward to buy the units, Pagcor was thinking of using them as prizes in casino raffles.
?But that is still only a possibility. We are still studying that. There is nothing definite,? she said.
Unnecessary and unwise
The Commission on Audit (COA) said that the purchase was unnecessary because Pagcor took out a loan for it and that the money could have been better used for revenue generation or priority projects. It recommended that the condominium units be sold.
Bautista said that Pagcor was also studying if its officials involved in the deal were legally liable for what the COA said was also an ?unwise? deal.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer tried to get the side of Velarde, through his spokesperson Mel Robles, but Robles did not answer text messages and calls made to his two mobile phones.
While the agency initially said that the condos were for its employees, it later told COA that the condos were for ?very important guests? for its Parañaque operation, the only branch that had no hotel accommodations for its guests.
Bautista confirmed the COA finding that the units were unoccupied and remained idle after their purchase.
?No, not even once. These units were not occupied,? Bautista said.
Pagcor insiders noted that the condos were located near Amvel Park, where thousands of El Shaddai members converge every weekend for their worship services, causing traffic problems in the area.
Bautista said that Pagcor was also remitting its committed contributions to the Museum Endowment Fund (MEF) of the National Museum and the Early Child Care and Development (ECCD) Program.
She said that of the P178-million remaining balance to be paid to the MEF, P111 million was already available while another tranche of P56 million was expected to be approved within the year.
For the ECCD, Pagcor had already given P1.382 billion to the Department of Social Welfare and Development and the gaming agency was waiting for another formal request from the agency before it releases another P500 million, Bautista said.