More Pagcor scams bared
Keeping patrons wide awake was big business in government-run casinos.
Besides shelling out P1 billion for overpriced coffee, Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) spent huge sums for energy drinks during the Arroyo administration, Pagcor chair Cristino Naguiat Jr. said on Monday.
An associate of former Pagcor chair Efraim Genuino, Carolina Matsuda, got a contract to supply Pagcor casinos with bottled energy drinks which the Commission on Audit (COA) found to be overpriced by more than 300 percent, Naguiat said.
A COA report in 2007 said that while the energy drink was sold at P25.50 per bottle in a major drugstore, Matsuda’s MSM Numero Uno International Corp. was selling it at P109.09 to Pagcor, or 328 percent higher than the prevailing market price.
MSM Numero Uno earned more than P102 million from 2006 to 2009, which Naguiat said was charged to Pagcor’s operating expenses.
He said a businessman and his wife with close ties to Genuino cornered other contracts from Pagcor.
Johnny Tan’s Kilton Motor Corp. supplied vehicles, metal detectors, stickers, generators and other equipment worth about P21.4 million during Genuino’s term, the Pagcor chair said.
Naguiat said Big Shot Bingo Corp., which listed Tan’s wife, Carlota Cristi Manalo-Tan, among its incorporators, was granted a license by the former Pagcor board to run nine bingo parlors and five electronic bingo games in 12 shopping malls in Metro Manila and several provinces.
The Genuinos, Tan and Matsuda were among the respondents in the P186-million plunder suit Pagcor had lodged in the Department of Justice in connection with the use of Pagcor funds to bolster the campaign of the Bida party-list group in the 2010 elections.
Bida had Genuino’s daughter, Sheryl See, as its first nominee, and Tan its second nominee. Matsuda was a Bida board of director.
“The evidence about the irregularities committed by the previous Pagcor management keeps sprouting like mushrooms,” Naguiat told the Inquirer.
“Some of them are coming out even without us looking for them,” he said.
Naguiat said Pagcor started offering bottled power drinks and coffee to casino players for free under Genuino’s watch.
MSM Numero Uno was able to win a contract to supply bottled Thunder energy drinks to 10 casinos from 2006 to 2009.
“The unreasonably high price adopted by MSM for its products inside the casino only meant one thing; there were excessive payments made for food and beverage, a situation clearly disadvantageous to Pagcor,” the 2007 COA audit report said.
The COA team also observed that while Pagcor allowed MSM to occupy only four square meters (sq m) of its casino at Heritage Hotel, its kiosk was actually using 8.75 sq m of the casino.
In a letter to Genuino dated Dec. 14, 2008, Matsuda informed Pagcor of her company’s decision to end its operations in 10 casino branches.
Without citing specific reasons, Matsuda said the MSM board of directors chose to “close and terminate” the company’s business operations “after thorough deliberation.”
Aside from being a director of Big Shot Bingo Corp., Carlota Tan was the registered owner of Promolabels Specialty Shop, which got concessionaire contracts from Pagcor to put up Figaro coffee shops in seven Pagcor-run casinos.
From 2001 to June last year, Promolabels earned more than P700 million from supplying free coffee to casino patrons.
Naguiat said Big Shot had been earning hundreds of millions of pesos from operating bingo parlors in shopping malls.
Huge bingo revenues
Last year alone, Big Shot registered gross sales of close to P566 million in its traditional bingo operations at Metropoint Mall in Pasay City and nine SM malls in Batangas, Pampanga, Pangasinan, Cavite and Rizal provinces, and in the cities of Manila and Marikina.
Big Shot also earned P72.3 million from its electronic bingo operations in Pasay, Manila and Marikina.
With this discovery, Naguiat ordered Pagcor’s legal department to review Big Shot’s license, saying he was not inclined to renew it.
He said he had also directed a review of all concessionaire contracts that the past Pagcor board had given to canteen operators, food stall owners and other suppliers.
“I will be shocked if I still find Johnny Tan’s name there,” Naguiat said.
The Pagcor chair said Tan’s companies were favored by the previous Pagcor management. “Really, Johnny Tan must be a lucky man,” Naguiat tweeted regarding Genuino’s fellow Rotarian.
Since Tan was a “known ally” and associate of Genuino’s, “evidently there was conflict of interest” in the grant of contracts to the businessman’s companies, Naguiat said.
Citing documents, Naguiat said Tan also received P650,000 in sponsorship grants from Pagcor for kart racing events in Cavite, Batangas and Clark Field from 2008 to 2010.
He said Tan owned Clark International Speedway and Batangas Racing Circuit, which hosted various international and local kart races.
Reached on his mobile phone, Ferdinand Topacio, Genuino’s lawyer and spokesperson, declined to comment on the latest allegations against the former Pagcor chair.
“We will reserve our comments until we see the copy of those documents and until we know more of the allegations,” Topacio said.
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