Execs of PNOC firm face plunder rapsBy Jerry E. Esplanada
Philippine Daily Inquirer
The president of the state-run Philippine National Oil Co. and the former head of PNOC-Exploration Corp., PNOC’s sister company, along with five other top PNOC-EC officials, are facing plunder charges before the Ombudsman over their supposed involvement in the allegedly irregular importation of over $5.36 million worth of Indonesian coal in 2009.
Crismel Verano, a former chairman and director of PNOC-EC, filed the case on July 31 against PNOC president Antonio Cailao and Rafael del Pilar, the immediate past president of
PNOC-EC who is now a director of the firm. Cailao and Del Pilar are brothers-in-law.
The other respondents are PNOC-EC officials Lourdes Gelacio, vice president for corporate services; Jose Sta. Ana, vice president for legal services; and Leocadio Ostrea, Jose Anthony Villanueva and Jose Eijan Santos, senior officers.
The respondents have yet to reply to Verano’s charges.
In his complaint, Verano, who is also a former customs official, also asked the antigraft body to look into the alleged ill-gotten wealth of Del Pilar.
Illegal coal shipment
On the allegedly illegal coal shipment, Verano alleged that in mid-2009, the respondents entered into a coal supply agreement with Wilson International Trading for the importation of coal from Indonesia, “even without any assured demand or need requirements for coal supply.”
The coal from Indonesia arrived on Sept. 11, 2009, on board the Austin which anchored off Pagbilao Bay, he said.
According to Verano, Del Pilar offered the coal to the National Power Corp. (Napocor) but the state generator refused it, saying its level of coal inventory was still high and that the shipment was not covered by a contract.
This prompted Del Pilar to ask then Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes Jr. to accommodate the coal shipment to prevent PNOC-EC from incurring costs for demurrage, or the docking of a vessel at port beyond its scheduled departure date.
On Sept. 10, 2009, Gelacio and Eijian Santos issued a letter of credit amounting to $5.36 million in favor of Wilson International. A little over a month later, the PNOC-EC wrote to the Land Bank of the Philippines authorizing the payment of an initial $4.8 million to Wilson International.
Wilson later filed an arbitration case for demurrage claims and losses against PNOC-EC.
According to Verano, PNOC-EC also incurred losses of more than $2.2 million in early 2010 after the Sual coal-fired power plant in Pangasinan refused to accept yet another coal shipment arranged by the company.
In an interview, Verano said the irregularities were “an open secret at PNOC-EC.”
“Apparently, even company insiders could no longer stomach the corruption that’s going on in the company. So they took part in collating all the evidence that we submitted to the Ombudsman,” he said.
He said every single one of the officials involved in the irregularities have been retained by the Aquino administration, “apparently because they have backers at the Department of Energy.”
He said Cailao and Del Pilar were “not only brothers-in-law but also members of a clique at PNOC and PNOC-EC.”
“Clearly, it appears the respondents were participants in a web of conspiracy to defraud the government, which is tantamount to plunder under Republic Act No. 7080,” said Verano.
In separate interviews, at least three PNOC-EC old-timers confirmed Verano’s disclosures. They also claimed that “some company officials have been getting commissions of at least 5 to 10 percent from coal deals and other procurements.”
PNOC-EC chairman Gemiliano Lopez Jr. said he had “learned about the coal shipment-related irregularities and the alleged involvement of some company officials in the mess shortly after I took over my post (in late 2010).”
“I’ve ordered an investigation of the anomalies covering that shipment,” he said.
Last month, Lopez filed graft charges against Gelacio and two other PNOC-EC executives for the alleged “overpricing from 100 to 9,000 percent” of the P55 million renovation of the company’s Taguig headquarters.
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