Baler movie, tip of the iceberg | Inquirer News
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Baler movie, tip of the iceberg

/ 07:53 AM July 04, 2011

The Aquino administration is hot on alleged corruption by former Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) officials.

A complaint for malversation of public funds and violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act had been filed against 13 former ranking Pagcor executives led by Efraim Genuino and 14 other persons identified with Viva Productions and BIDA Foundation.

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The case stemmed from Pagcor’s disbursement of P26.7 million for the production of the 2008 movie, “Baler,” a co-production project of Viva Productions and Bida, a foundation controlled by the Genuinos. Under the joint venture agreement, Bida paid 2/3 or P26.7 million of the production cost, with Viva Productions assuming 1/3 or P13.3 million of the account for a total of P40 million.

Incumbent Pagcor officials who filed the complaint presented documents to show that Bida’s production budget share of P26.7 million was charged to the state-owned gaming firm through committed ticket sales.

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Officials tried to conceal disbursement of funds by making it appear that regular casino players were asking for freebies in the form of Baler movie tickets, a demand that was supposedly traced through the players tracking system (PTS). This prompted then Pagcor communications director Dodie King to issue a memorandum asking for P26.7 million to buy Baler movie tickets to be given free to regular players. Not only that,  I heard even Pagcor employees were also pressured to shell a few hundreds for Baler movie tickets, much to their chagrin.

The project documentation named Baler’s executive producers as Vic del Rosario, Jr. for Viva and Erwin Genuino, a former executive assistant of Pagcor and son of former Pagcor chairman Efraim Genuino. Erwin was Pagcor and Bida officer at the same time when he signed documents to co-produce Baler.

Efraim Genuino, Butch Francisco, Dodie King and Jose Benedicto are also known officials of the foundation. Meanwhile, Bida’s Mario Cornista, Rodolfo Soriano, Sr. and Emilio Marcelo were also Pagcor consultants during the term of Genuino.

Bida stands for Batang Iwas Droga, a foundation set up by Efraim Eugenio in 2003.  According to Wiki Pilipinas, Bida Foundation also produced a 13-episode anime production, supposedly to educate children against the evils of illegal drugs. In 2009, Bida launched a grand rally attended by celebrities and students from Metro Manila. The crowd was so huge that the Guinness World Records tagged it as the “largest march against illegal drugs.”

The Bida Foundation projects that tapped the youth including media celebrities resulted in media mileage for Pagcor especially Genuino who had been trying to build a political base in Makati City to no avail. Despite Baler and the Guinness award, the political ambitions of Erwin Genuino failed to gain steam in last year’s district race in Makati City. Like Augusto Syjuco before him, Genuino cannot stand up to the influence of the Binays in Makati.

In 2010, Bida Foundation sought Comelec accreditation as a party-list group and named Sheryl Genuino-See as its first nominee amid criticism from different sectors. Of course, concerned citizens didn’t need the Comelec to tell them that Bida as an adjunct of the GMA administration helped itself to Pagcor funds and was pretending to be a private sector initiative in order to enter the party list race.

Despite Pagcor’s lavish support, Genuino’s Congress bid was trashed. With a new administration in place, I hope for a finality that will not only end his political pretensions but also see him and his cohorts dealt with according to the law.

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The Department of Justice has convened a panel to review the complaint for preliminary investigation. I hope the panel takes into account investigation reports by Vincent Michael Borneo of the Philippine Public Transparency Reporting Project because Baler looks just like the tip of the iceberg.

In his April 28, 2011 article, PAGCOR: Awash with Cash, Short on Accountability, Borneo wrote that PAGCOR paid the Bida Foundation Inc. a total of P28.2 million (US $655,813) in check payments—P 26.7 million (USD 620,930) on December 23, 2008 and P1.5 million (US $34,883) on March 17, 2009.

Pagcor also paid Bida Production Inc a total of P24.98 million (USD 580,930) for services rendered to the Pagcor project Maligayang Barangay as well as for promotional and video materials for the same project; promotional materials and judging for the Pinakamaligayang Barangay project; including members’ IDs, pins, tarpaulins and collaterals. Payments for Bida members’ pins alone amounted to PhP 8.82 million (USD 205,116).

The unholy alliance between Genuino’s Bida Foundation and his control of Pagcor in the previous administration was so barefaced that I wonder if he ever thought of the legal consequences, or if he was rational at all when he entered into such transactions.

Somebody said, “Hubog sa gahum og sa kwartang nagpongasi” (Drunk with power and money without limit).

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TAGS: Government, Graft and Corruption, Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor)
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