Ex-Pagcor chair, 10 others face plunder, graft charges
An anticrime group on Monday brought plunder and graft charges in the Department of Justice against former Philippine Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) chair Cristino Naguiat Jr. and 10 others in connection with alleged irregular payment of P234 million in rental fees to a private company for a “nonexistent” property last year.
Naguiat, a trusted friend of former President Benigno Aquino III, initiated the filing of several criminal cases against his predecessor, Efraim Genuino, after he was named to head the state-owned gaming company in 2010.
Now, he and several former Pagcor officials are the ones on the receiving end.
Besides Naguiat, also named respondents in the complaint filed by the
Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) were former Pagcor president Jorge Sarmiento, Jose Tanjuatco, Enriquito Nuguid, Eugene Manalastas, Milagros Pauline Visque, Ramon Jose Jones, Romeo Cruz Jr., Annalyn Zoglmann and Kathleen Delantar.
Manuel Sy, owner of Vanderwood Management Corp. (VMC), which leased a 6,500-square-meter lot to Pagcor for P13 million a month, was named private respondent in the complaint.
In an eight-page complaint, VACC founding chair Dante Jimenez and board member Arsenio Evangelista said Naguiat and the others conspired with one another to hoodwink the government by entering into a fraudulent agreement with VMC.
“Public money was paid by [the former Pagcor officials] to respondent VMC for nothing. This is indubitably a raid on the public treasury,” the VACC complaint said.
“All told, conspiracy among the respondents was established beyond a shadow of doubt,” it said.
“[They] acquired ill-gotten wealth through malversation of public funds and raid on the public treasury, and by taking advantage of their official positions,” it added.
According to Jimenez and Evangelista, the Pagcor board of directors headed by Naguiat “surprisingly” approved the 15-year lease contract between the state-run gaming company and VMC on
March 24, 2015, hours after Pagcor’s bids and awards committee granted it to VMC.
They said the former Pagcor officials also immediately approved the release to VMC of P156 million in advance rental payment for 12 months and a deposit of P78 million.
Citing the audit report of the Commission on Audit, the VACC said the property, which Pagcor planned to use to build a casino, was actually owned by the Manila city government and was leased to Oceanville Hotel and Spa Corp.
“The subject lease contract was void [from the start] because its object, which was the building space intended for the casino … was nonexistent at the time of its execution,” the VACC said.
When reached for comment, Naguiat said he disagreed with the use of the term “nonexistent” to describe the project and put it in bad light.
He said there were no other existing structures that met Pagcor’s specifications for the project, hence the need to build one.
“This project is aboveboard. It will save the agency millions of pesos, and the new management knows this,” Naguiat said in a phone interview.
He explained that once Pagcor decided to move its existing casino out of the Gatchalian family-owned Waterfront Manila Pavilion Hotel, VMC agreed to build a structure for it according to the gaming company’s requirements.
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