By INA ALLECO R. SILVERIO
MANILA — A year after she stepped down from office, controversies and scandals continue to hound former president and current Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Bayan Muna Representative Neri Javier Colmenares wants the House of Representatives to investigate the transfer of P 435.15 million (US$10,116,279) from the funds of the Philippine Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) to the former executive’s Presidential Social Fund in May 2010 during the election ban. This was barely a month before she stepped down from office on June 30, 2010.
Colmenares said it was important to delve into the spending of Pagcor because it is a major source of government revenues. Congress is currently deliberating over the budget proposal for 2012 of the Aquino administration, and lawmakers are calling for a deeper look into the sources of various funds including those devoted to intelligence work and operations of the government.
“Any misuse of PAGCOR funds which forms part of government revenues will affect the budget of government,” Colmenares said.
Colmenares said that based on the “Genuino Transmissions” dated May 24 and May 28 2010 which he managed to procure, then Pagcor chairman Ephraim Genuino transmitted to then president Arroyo a staggering amount of P435.15 million (US$10,116,279).
At the time, an election ban was in place and was not to be lifted until mid-June of 2010. Colmenares said it was obvious that the money transfer was rushed, and that the amount itself constituted pork barrel.
“Pork barrel”is slang for a government project or appropriation that yields jobs or other benefits to a specific locale and patronage opportunities to its political representative.
“Genuino had no business giving out large sums of money to outgoing public officials, particularly since there was even then a a huge budget deficit,” Colmenares said. He said that based on records now referred to as the “Genuino Transmissions”, it was seen that on May 28, 2010, the Pagcor transferred P130 million (US$3, 023,255) to Arroyo via a check numbered 173093; P45 million (US$1, 046,511) through check numbered 173094, and P170 million (US $3,953,488) through a check numbered 173095. He also transmitted the amount of P80,159,315.84 to (US$1, 864,170) Arroyo on May 24, 2010 through a check numbered 172801 on May 24, 2010.
Pagcor funds as rewards to Arroyo supporters
Colmenares also questioned Pagcor’s release of vouchers wherein a total of P185 million (US$4, 302,325) was given to selected municipalities in Arroyo’s district.
“Why did Pagcor flood these municipalities with large amounts of money during the election ban? Was it to deflect suspicion because surely, it would have looked questionable if the then president herself disbursed the money directly to her own district? We need to get to the bottom of this because it’s patently criminal to have a government revenue-generating agency like Pagcor release massive funds as rewards to municipalities who delivered votes for a candidate,” he said.
Colmenares also said he had been informed that vouchers on fund distribution to other districts are also available for scrutiny.
“In any case, Genuino must explain why he chose only one district for his generosity. This could be a violation of the anti graft law and the code of conduct of public officials,” he said.
No intelligence funds for Pagcor, other agencies
The office of the Bayan Muna lawmaker has been able to secure various documents revealing a trail that could lead to a corruption scandal of massive proportions.
Colmenares has been able to secure Pagcor vouchers for Lubao declaring the transfer of P44 million (US$1,023,255); Floridablanca for P33 million (US $767,441); Sasmuan for P12 million (US $279,069); Guagua for P31 million (US $ 720,930); Sta Rita for P10 million (US$232,558); and Porac for P29 million (US$674,418). All the vouchers were released and signed on May 26, 2010 by Pagcor vice president Estela Ramos.
“Although these vouchers were all later cancelled when the disbursement was noticed by fiscalizers outside Pagcor, the fact that there was an attempt to pull this off this is certainly abominable. Mr. Genuino and Pagcor’s Ramos must be investigated for this,” Colmenares said. “If these came from intelligence funds, and disbursements were made from these funds, then Genuino and those who conspired with him may be charged with technical malversation and election offenses.”
Colmenares said Congress must immediately conduct investigations into the matter “Not just to find out who is accountable but also to help it in deciding during the budget deliberation whether government-owned and controlled corporations like Pagcor should be given intelligence funds. It’s about time we seriously question this much abused intelligence funds which has been the source of so much corruption. Impunity must end. And it must end now,” Colmenares said.
Previously the lawmaker issued a call to Pagcor to investigate and prosecute officials who used the Presidential Social Fund (PSF) surreptitiously transferred from the Pagcor intelligence funds in the amount of P185 million(US$4,302,325) to provide one million to every barangay in former president Arroyo’s distruct in Pampanga and to that of her son Rep. Dato Arroyo in Bicol. These funds were initially sourced from Pagcor intelligence fund but were later coursed through the PSF.
“I am glad Pagcor confirmed that based on Pagcor vouchers available, there was such subsequent remittance to the PSF,” Colmenares said.
The activist lawmaker said the Presidential Management Staff must immediately give to Congress records of disbursements of these funds as this could constitute not just a violation of election laws but of plunder as well for both the former president Arroyo and Genuino.
“Under the Plunder Act, the mere taking of more than P50 mllion (US $1,162,790) constitutes plunder whether you bought a house with it or spent it on elections,” Colmenares explained.
He went on to say that another even more damaging report is the one stating that on May 28, 2010, Genuino remitted to Malacañang millions in intelligence funds which even includes an advance of the intelligence fund scheduled for June 2010.
“Why the ex-president advanced millions of pesos in intelligence fund for June when her term was about to end, escapes me, but there can only be a handful of answers. I am glad Pagcor has filed cases in court, but I ask that it immediately investigate this issue so that proper charges could be filed against those responsible for this misuse of public funds,” he said.
Colmenares said the responsibility to go after Arroyo, Genuino and all other officials involved in corruption currently lies with the Aquino administration. He said Arroyo committed gross acts of corruption in the nine years she was in power and has so far gotten away with it. This, he said, has created a “syndrome of impunity” which should be put an end.
“President Aquino, and his officials, will be untrue to their commitment against corruption if they will not be able to build strong cases against these officials. It must not only cancel anomalous contracts but pursue more vigorously all these cases. One year is too long for impunity to continue reigning,” he said.