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Another House panel to probe Pagcor payoffs

By: Christian Esguerra, December 2nd, 2012 08:40 AM

MANILA, Philippines—The House committee on good government is poised to conduct a parallel investigation into alleged anomalies involving former officials of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) amid fresh revelations that a former consultant to the state-run gambling agency had received $30 million from billionaire Japanese casino operator Kazuo Okada.

The committee headed by Rep. Jerry Treñas would act on a two-year-old resolution filed by Representatives Teodoro Casiño and Neri Colmenares, who had sought a probe into the “various multimillion anomalies attending” Pagcor during the previous administration.

In their resolution, Casiño and Colmenares alleged that Pagcor, then under Chair Efraim Genuino, “practically made (the agency) a milking cow.” The committee had so far held only one hearing on the resolution, Casiño said on Saturday.

“This new allegation should put more pressure on the committee to investigate,” he told the Inquirer, referring to the alleged $30-million bribe received by Rodolfo Soriano, a former Pagcor consultant and purported Genuino bagman.

Soriano allegedly received the amount in a series of payments in 2010 when Okada’s Universal Entertainment Corp. was seeking tax and other government concessions for a $2-billion casino project in Entertainment City on Manila Bay.

“Can you imagine how big $30 million is?” Casiño said, noting the initial information that Soriano had received a combined $15-million payoff in separate transactions in 2010.

Not satisfied with a separate hearing conducted by the committee on games and amusement Wednesday, Casiño wrote Treñas the following day, reminding him of the resolution he filed in 2010.

“The committee will act on the letter. I am in favor of conducting a hearing,” Treñas said in a text message to the Inquirer.

Casiño said that both the committees on good government and games and amusement could hold parallel hearings on Pagcor. He said the former could focus on alleged corruption during Genuino’s time, while the latter could tackle the functions of Pagcor as a regulator.

Rep. Amado Bagatsing, games and amusements committee chair, earlier downplayed the allegations against Genuino, saying that there was no evidence linking the former Pagcor boss to the alleged payoffs.

He said only Soriano would be invited to the next committee hearing.

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