OFFICERS of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) on Monday filed plunder and graft charges against former Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) chairman Cristino Naguiat and nine other former officials in connection with the controversial P3.21-billion lease contract entered into by the state gambling regulator and Vanderwood Management Corp. (VMC) in 2015.
Also charged at the Department of Justice were former Pagcor officer Jose Tanjuatco, Board of Directors members Enriguito Nuguid and Eugene Manalastas and Jorge Sarmiento, former chief operating officer (COO).
The VACC also named as respondents Milagros Pauline Visque, Ramon Jose Jones, Romeo Cruz Jr., Annalyn Zoglmann, Kathleen Delantar, members of the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) and Manuel Sy of VMC.
In their eight-page complaint-affidavit, VACC founding chairman Dante Jimenez and board member Arsenio Evangelista accused the respondents of violating Sections 1 and 2 of Republic Act 7080 or the Anti-Plunder Act and Section 3 of RA 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corruption Practices Act when they approved the lease contract in favor of VMC for which P234 million in advance rental was illegally disbursed from the public treasury.
The lease contract involved the 6,500-square meter property within the portion of the iconic Army and Navy Club along Roxas Boulevard that is now known as Museo ng Maynila Complex. The property was leased by the city government of Manila to Oceanville Hotel and Spa Corp. in 2014.
Pagcor’s BAC first held the bidding for the lease contract of the property for a casino gaming facility for a period of 15 years on September 14, 2014. There were six prospective bidders.
Subsequently, the BAC was replaced by another committee composed of the respondents. A second pre-bid conference for a negotiated procurement was held but only VMC submitted an offer, prompting the BAC2 to declare a failed bidding.
The same BAC2, however, later resolved to grant VMC’s motion for reconsideration and recommended on March 24, 2015 the award of the contract to VMC. The board approved the company’s P3.2-billion offer on the same day.
But the Commission on Audit (COA) found the awarding of the lease contract to be highly irregular and anomalous because the lot was owned by the local government of Manila.
The supervising auditor of COA found that the VMC received P234 million representing 12 months’ advance rental and six months’ security deposit at P13 million per month despite the fact that the premises to be leased were not existing at the time of the execution of the contract.
“Considering that there [were]no leased premises to speak of, the disbursement of P234,000,000 was irregular and, therefore, disallowable in audit pursuant to COA Circular No.2012-003 dated October 29, 2012,” the COA findings stated.
The complainants claimed the respondents violated the anti-plunder law when they conspired and connived with each other to approve the anomalous contract in favor of VMC.
They said conspiracy was evident from the fact that the recommendation of the BAC members was immediately approved by the Board of Directors.
“Indubitably, all respondents acted in common concert and in unison to achieve their criminal design to raid the public treasury of the amount of P234,000,000 to the prejudice of the government,” the complainants said.
“That based on the foregoing facts, there is more than probable cause to warrant the filing of violation of RA 7080 or the Anti-Plunder Act and violation of Section 3 (e) of RA 3019 against the above-named respondents,” they added.
Jimenez in an interview said the VACC will be filing more plunder and graft complaints against other former government officials as the group has unearthed more irregular deals in other government agencies.
He noted that the economic gains obtained from the various overseas trips of President Rodrigo Duterte will amount to nothing if corruption is allowed to flourish.
“We believe that a corruption-free Philippines attracts more investors and provide a conducive climate for business to prosper, along with safe, drug-free and peaceful communities all over the country,” Jimenez said.
The Manila Times asked for a comment from the accused but was still waiting for a reply as of press time.