‘We’re no cronies of Genuino, not even friends’ | Inquirer News

‘We’re no cronies of Genuino, not even friends’

By: - Reporter / @TarraINQ
/ 05:19 AM August 04, 2011

They were mere “acquaintances” with the man who made them earn multimillions.

So claimed the couple who bagged allegedly lucrative supply contracts with state-owned Philippine Gaming and Amusement Corp. (Pagcor), as they denied committing any irregularity and being “cronies” of the firm’s embattled former chair, Efraim Genuino.


Assisted by lawyer Lorna Kapunan in a press conference on Wednesday, Johnny Tan and wife Carlota Manalo-Tan maintained they were legitimate businessmen who were wrongfully accused.

“We’re just acquaintances. That’s all,” Johnny Tan said when pressed by reporters about his purported friendship with Genuino, under whose management he and his wife bagged contracts to supply vehicles, generators and coffee services to Pagcor, as well as licenses to run bingo parlors.


Tan was an incorporator and the second nominee of the Genuino-backed party-list group Batang Iwas Droga (Bida), which advertised itself as an antidrug advocacy group when it vied for House seats in the 2010 elections. Genuino’s daughter Sheryl See was Bida’s first nominee.

Tan maintained that even before signing up with Bida, he had long been campaigning against illegal drugs by supporting kart racing events. “Drugs and racing go together,” he said.

“In my capacity as someone who’s successful in business, I don’t see anything wrong in running for an advocacy I’ve been fighting for. I want to help the nation,” Tan said in Filipino.

He said he had been supplying generators to the government and private sector since 1986, and that his company won “only three of the eight biddings” held by the gaming firm.

Tan, Genuino and another Pagcor supplier, Carolina Matsuda, are facing a P186-million plunder complaint filed by the new Pagcor management for allegedly using the gaming firm’s funds to bolster Bida’s 2010 campaign.

For her part, Carlota Tan, whose company Promolabels Specialty Shop. set up Figaro coffee shops in seven Pagcor-operated casinos during Genuino’s term, said she actually took measures to avoid “suspicion” when she got the concessionaire contracts.

“When I offered a good coffee brand to Pagcor, I removed the name ‘Tan’ (on the papers) because I did not want any suspicion that my husband had anything to do with my business in Pagcor,” she said.


“At the back of my mind, I wanted to present myself as me. [It is] for that reason alone,” Carlota Tan said.

As to how she got the contracts without undergoing a public bidding, Carlota Tan said she was simply not aware that she had to go through such a process.

Sign of deceit

Last week, current Pagcor chair Cristino Naguiat Jr. pointed out that Carlota Tan signed the concessionaire contracts using her nickname and maiden name, “Lot Manalo,” which for him was a sign of “deceit.”

Naguiat then also disclosed that Promolabels got the bulk—P700 million—of the P1 billion Pagcor spent on coffee which was given “free” as a perk to casino players from 2001 to June last year.

He also cited a Commission on Audit (COA) report showing that Pagcor then paid for each cup at a price 64-percent higher than that served in other Figaro branches.

Early this week, Naquiat set off another bombshell on the couple, saying Carlota Tan was an incorporator of another firm, Big Shot Bingo Corp., which was granted a license by the previous Pagcor board to run nine bingo parlors and five electronic bingo games in 12 shopping malls in Metro Manila and several provinces.

Naguiat also said Johnny Tan’s Kilton Motor Corp. supplied vehicles, metal detectors, stickers, generators, and other equipment to Pagcor worth about P21.4 million during Genuino’s term.

The businessman also received P650,000 in sponsorship grants from Pagcor for kart racing events in the provinces of Cavite and Batangas, and Clark Field from 2008 to 2010, Naguiat added.

At Wednesday’s press conference, Johnny Tan claimed that he and Genuino had never spoken about his wife’s business. “He didn’t ask me about this business of my wife,” he stressed.

Reckless statement

It was the couple’s first time to face the press together since President Aquino, in his July 25 State of the Nation Address (Sona), drew attention to Pagcor expenditures under Genuino, starting with the P1-billion coffee billings.

During the press conference, Kapunan did much of the talking: “We strongly denounce and condemn any and all public statements that have been recklessly made without any basis as to fact, and done with the sole purpose of discrediting people who have worked a legitimate business.”

“Not everybody is a crook,” the couple’s lawyer said. “We condemn (this as) a clear violation of the right to due process (and) presumption of innocence, the right to be tried in a court of law. We cannot be tried by publicity.”

Kapunan challenged the Aquino administration to instead check how Pagcor had been spending 50 percent of its annual revenue since its charter allocates half of its income for “sociocivic and infrastructure projects.”

“There is no truth that he (Johnny Tan) is a crony or that he has benefited and took undue advantage of his so-called being a ‘Rotary (Club member)’ or a ‘friend.’ Former chair Genuino himself had said he is not close to Mr. Tan,” the lawyer stressed.

‘Grossly exaggerated’

As to Carlota Tan’s coffee shop contracts, Kapunan said the issue had been “grossly exaggerated” since the P700 million earned by Promolabels covered a period of almost 10 years of round-the-clock coffee service in Pagcor casinos.

She explained that while her client supplied Pagcor with “specialty coffee” that was more expensive than regular mixes, it was subsidized by casino patrons themselves since payment came from 5 percent of Pagcor’s revenues.

“We demand a full COA audit report on the use and allocation of Pagcor funds of the past administration. We demand a full COA audit report on the one year of this administration,” Kapunan said.

“Let us not complain about coffee. Let us not complain about generators. These were covered by the 5 percent taken from clients who want better coffee and noiseless generators. Let us complain and rage why we do not seem to have a report on how 50 percent was spent by the last administration,” she added.

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