Genuino says coffee is good, the math bad
The former chair of Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) on Wednesday said President Benigno Aquino III was “misinformed” about the state-run firm’s P1-billion expenditure on coffee served in casinos during the past administration, and asked the current chair to check his facts and his math before questioning the huge figure.
But asked to explain why only one company owned by a friend’s wife managed to corner contracts to put up coffee shops at the casinos, Efraim Genuino merely said the selection was made based on feedback from the casino “players” themselves.
Current Pagcor chair Cristino Naguiat Jr. on Tuesday disclosed that a small company owned by Carlota Cristi Manalo-Tan, wife of known Genuino ally Johnny Tan, raked in P700 million out of the P1 billion the company spent on the beverage that was given “free” to casino patrons from 2001 to June last year.
Naguiat also said Promolabels Specialty Shop, which put up Figaro coffee shops in seven Pagcor-run casinos under Genuino’s watch, bagged the concessionaire contracts without a public bidding.
In an interview, Genuino explained: “Players usually play in different casinos. Apparently, they thought the coffee that (Promolabels) offered was good that’s why they asked our managers to have Figaro branches in other casinos.”
Not close pals
Genuino admitted that he knew Johnny Tan, but he said the latter was not a personal friend.
They were both members of the Rotary Club, but “I had been inactive with the Rotary in the past 10 years,” the former Pagcor chair told the Inquirer.
Genuino maintained there was “no need” for Carlota Tan’s company to undergo a public bidding.
“Promolabels was never a coffee supplier of Pagcor. It’s a concessionaire which sells coffee to casino players,” he stressed.
Genuino also denied Naguiat’s allegations that the coffee was overpriced. Citing a 2006 Commission on Audit (COA) report, Naguiat said Pagcor paid for a cup of coffee at the casinos at a price 64-percent higher than that sold in other Figaro branches.
“It’s just like buying a can of soft drinks or a bottle of water in cinemas which are usually priced higher that those you can buy in supermarkets,” Genuino explained.
“I think Naguiat should put a wangwang (blaring emergency siren) inside his head even for a minute for him to stop imagining things,” the former Pagcor chair said in Filipino.
Genuino was apparently putting his own twist to the metaphor used by President Aquino in his State of the National Address (Sona) on Monday. The President then repeatedly referred to the so-called “wangwang mentality” to describe public officials who commit graft and violate laws with impunity.
It was also in the July 25 Sona that Mr. Aquino first told the public about the P1 billion Pagcor had spent “on coffee alone” under Genuino’s management.
“Naguiat must admit his mistake that he misinformed the President,” Genuino said, claiming there was “nothing mathematically anomalous” about the gaming firm’s expenditure.
By his own computations, Genuino said, each of Pagcor’s 13 casino branches consumed only about six cups of coffee per hour daily during his entire nine-year chairmanship.
Genuino arrived at the figure by dividing the sum of the coffee billings by the number of Pagcor casinos and the total number of days he was in office.
He said at least 25,000 people frequented Pagcor casinos daily, or an average of 2,000 players per branch.
“There was an obvious intent by Naguiat to hide the true facts and figures about this issue. He was resorting to trial by publicity,” Genuino said.
“The P1-billion figure could be an incredible amount at first. But when you look at the expenses closely, you will find that there was nothing mathematically anomalous there,” he added.
Genuino also said the new Pagcor management had been using government resources to “taint the reputation” of the past officers and their families. “This is just unfair,” he said.
He was referring to the string of criminal complaints lodged against him, his children and other associates in the Department of Justice (DoJ) and the Office of the Ombudsman over the past month.
In one plunder complaint, Genuino and Johnny Tan were among the respondents accused of using P186-million in Pagcor funds to finance the 2010 election bid of the party-list group Bida, which had Genuino’s daughter Sheryl and Tan as its first and second nominees, respectively.
He said Naguiat had an axe to grind against him, recalling that the latter was sacked as Pagcor management audit chief two months after Genuino was appointed chair by then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in 2001.
“He’s obviously trying to get back at me. Naguiat was trying to picture himself as a hero in the eyes of President Aquino at my expense,” Genuino said.
He also belied Naguiat’s statement that during his term, Pagcor offered the Figaro coffee for free as a come-on to gamblers.
“Pagcor never paid for the coffee consumption of casino customers. There’s nothing on the records that would show that,” Genuino said.
He explained that patrons who ordered the beverage paid for it by presenting their Player Tracker System or PTS cards, which contained points earned whenever they play casino games.
As part of a rebate system, he said, the PTS cards were used by casino players “like cash” to pay for the coffee.
“If they don’t have a PTS card, then the customers should pay for their coffee in cash. I repeat, Pagcor did not pay for the coffee they ordered,” he said.
Naguiat stood firm Wednesday on his earlier statements that the previous Pagcor board abused its authority by spending a “scandalous, outrageous, and offensively excessive” amount on a customer perk like coffee.
Naguiat said COA reports would reveal that several irregularities were committed during his predecessor’s time.
“Everything we filed (in the DoJ and Ombudsman) was based on documents. I’m just showing the COA reports to the public. What’s wrong with that?” the Pagcor chair said.
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