Senators: Statements of Kim Wong, Philrem exec are inconsistent

Rosette Adel - Philstar.com

MANILA, Philippines — Members of the Senate blue ribbon committee on Tuesday called attention to apparent inconsistencies in statements of casino junket operator Kim Wong and Philippine Remittance Co. (Philrem) executives on the alleged laundering of $81 million through the country’s financial system and casinos.

Sen. Ralph Recto noted that Philrem President Salud Bautista only mentioned the delivery of P600 million converted from US dollars at the first hearing and mentioned a different amount of P600 million $18 million at the second and third hearings.

Philrem's statement was denied by Wong, initially tagged as principal player in the big-time laundering, who said Philrem only delivered $80 million to $20 million to businessman Weikang Xu and alleged that he only took the balance from Philrem.

Philrem also failed to mention the name of Wong at the previous hearings that made senators suspect Bautista was siding with Wong.

"It seems that you were protecting the name of Wong," Recto alleged referring to Philrem's failure to mention Wong's presence during the cash deliveries.

Sen. Bam Aquino followed up Recto's questions and asked whether she purposely missed mentioning the name of Wong at the past hearings or was it simply an honest mistake. Bautista replied that she did not feel the need to mention Wong's name as the only topic was the remittance.

"Hindi naman po, kasi po 'yung beneficiary ang pinaguusapan natin, 'yung pera po," Bautista said.

"Kasi po pinaguusapan lang ho namin sa remittance 'yung beneficiary lang ho. Madami din ho kasing ibang mga Chinese na kasama nung nag-deliver," she added, saying Xu was the beneficiary and not Wong.

Bautista clarified that she was not asked of Wong's presence at the past hearings where she only tackled remittances.

"We were just instructed sa delivery, 'yun lang ho 'yung transaction namin. It was not asked before if Mr. Kim Wong was present," she said.

While questioning Philrem and Wong, Aquino said Bautista had contradicted earlier statements where she noted five to six people of Chinese descent who went to her house to claim the cash. She later on said Xu was just the recipient while others were just companions.

"'Yung instruction po ay ibigay ito kay Mr. Weikang Xu. Binigay po namin 'yung pera kay Mr. Weikang Xu," Bautista said.

Bautista's testimony, however, was denied by Wong who said he has been the only one who has gone to Bautista's house since February. He said he was joined by his driver and staff but they allegedly only stayed outside Bautista's house.

"Hindi po, ako lang po magisa… tanong niyo po," Wong said.

Wong and Bautista's statements clashed anew when said he never went to Bautista's house prior to the transaction, while the Bautista and her husband, Concon, claimed that Wong went to their house in 2015 with a friend.

The Philrem president, moreover, said Xu and his companions just stayed at the main door while Wong said he entered Bautista's house.

"Nilabas po namin 'yung pera ho from the house. Nasa main door lang po 'yata sila," Bautista said adding that she is not aware whether the people in her house and her neighbors witnessed the meeting.

To verify the claims of Bautistas and Wong, Aquino asked if the two parties can have a witness to attest who and how many people were really present during delivery meeting.

Wong took back his initial claim saying he forgot that he went to Bautista's house but mentioned it was only once. He was also asked by Aquino to describe the surroundings in Philrem's house to prove that he really went inside the house.

The casino junket operator then cited a painting of a road, which he claimed was special and he can never forget.

"Totoo po. Nalimutan ko po, one time po," Wong said referring to his visit to Bautista's house but unable to mention the reason for visit.

"Maraming painting po, pag tinignan mo yung painting kala mo napakalalim po ng daan. Special painting po," Wong said.

Concon said Wong indeed went to their house and expressed that he liked the painting.

"He's been to the house before and that painting type na type talaga niya and he was asking me where I got it," Concon said.

Concon added that Wong went to their house last year with a friend, but refused to name others present. "A lot of people not related have been mentioned already," he said.

For Aquino, mentioning the presence of Wong during cash deliveries is key in figuring out his role in the illegal operation.

At the executive session on March 17, dismissed Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. Jupiter branch manager Maia Santos-Deguito was accused by a resource person presented by the bank of facilitating the transfer of the $81 million to five accounts in her branch. Wong allegedly ordered her to do so.

The Senate inquiry into the $81 million banking heist will resume on Tuesday, April 5.

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