Former Pagcor chairman face plunder and graft charges

Former Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) chairman Cristino Naguiat and nine other former officials are facing plunder and graft charges for allegedly entering into a fraudulent agreement for a “nonexistent” property last year, local media reports

In their eight page complaint-affidavit, Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) chairman Dante Jimenez and board member Arsenio Evangelista said Naguiat and the others conspired with one another to deceive the government of P234 million ($4.9 million) by entering into a fraudulent agreement with Vanderwood Management Corp.

“Public money was paid by [the former Pagcor officials] to respondent VMC for nothing. This is indubitably a raid on the public treasury,” read the VACC complaint, quoted by The Inquirer.

“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 Commission on Audit (COA) found the awarding of the lease contract to be highly irregular and anomalous because it was owned by the local government of Manila, 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.

However, Naguiat when reached by The Inquirer for comment, said he disagreed with the use of the term “nonexistent” to describe the project.

He said at the time, 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.

Naguiat 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.