PAGCOR chief, 9 others face graft case over e-sabong

Neil Jayson Servallos - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — The chairman of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR) and nine others have been charged with graft before the Office of the Ombudsman over the allegedly illegal release and unexplained disappearance of P75 million in performance bond posted by an e-sabong firm.

Among those charged with malversation of public funds, qualified theft and falsification of private and commercial documents were PAGCOR chairman Alejandro Tengco, his chief of staff Dianne Erica Jogno, former PAGCOR chief Andrea Domingo and former board members Gabriel Claudio, Carmen Pedrosa, Reynaldo Concordia and James Patrick Bondoc.

Joaquin Sy, chairman of the board and chief finance officer of Kamura Highlands Gaming and Holdings Inc., filed the case.

The other respondents are Jewel Castro and his parents, Rizalina and Simplicio Castro, who were allegedly involved with Kamura.

Tengco and Jogno were also charged with complaints of obstruction of justice for “their deliberate concealment of the crimes and unjustified refusal to respond to the letters of the complainant within the period prescribed (by the law),” the complaint read.

Sy filed the case over the alleged illegal issuance and release by PAGCOR of P75 million in checks in favor of Castro, supposedly representing the return of a cash performance bond posted by Kamura for its e-sabong operations last year.

He claimed that he personally posted the bond at PAGCOR’s office in Malate, Manila through two managers’ checks payable to the gaming regulator and drawn from his personal bank accounts.

In return, he said PAGCOR issued official receipts and other documents proving the posting of a bond by the corporation.

However, a few weeks after posting the performance bond, then president Rodrigo Duterte ordered e-sabong operations stopped.

This prompted Sy to write to Domingo, seeking the withdrawal of the bond, but he did not receive a response.

Sy said he followed up his request several times until July 10 this year, but to no avail.

What he received was verbal confirmation from PAGCOR’s assistant vice president for finance Lolita Gonzales, that a check worth P75 million had been issued in September last year in favor of Castro and was immediately encashed thereafter.

“Government accounting procedures strictly require that the original copy of the receipts must be surrendered before the withdrawal of the bond is allowed. The illegal release of the cash performance bond to Castro was made during the incumbency of Domingo and the old board sometime in September 2022, according to Gonzales,” Sy said in a statement.

The complaint further argued that the General Appropriations Act as well as other laws and government issuances state that performance bonds are public funds and must be returned to the corporation or person who posted them.

The crime of malversation of public funds amounting to P75 million is non-bailable and punishable by life in prison as well as perpetual disqualification from holding public office.

Records show that Sy acquired majority shareholdings of Kamura in 2021. He was elected treasurer and chairman of the board in February 2022. Rizalina was elected president of the firm.

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