By Czarina Nicole Ong Ki
The Sandiganbayan Third Division has denied the motion for reconsideration filed by former Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) chairman Efraim Genuino and his co-accused, seeking to fight the amendment that would be made in their graft and malversation charges.
The 39 criminal charges – 19 graft and 20 malversation charges – filed against Genuino involved the reportedly anomalous use of Pagcor’s funds amounting to P183.7 million. Facing the charges with Genuino were Pagcor officers Rafael Francisco, Jose Benedicto, Rene Figueroa, Edward King, Ester Hernandez, and Valente Custodio.
The prosecution said that Pagcor took out P44 million in intelligence funds and distributed this instead to private entities such as Batang Iwas-Droga (BIDA) Foundation, BIDA Production, Wildformat Inc., and Pencil First without first identifying any public purpose.
They then transferred another P50 million for the procurement of tarpaulin, shirts, caps, promotional items, and the production and sponsorship expenses for BIDA Foundation.
Pagcor likewise paid P63 million for tri-media advertising placements in 2008 and 2009. This was for BIDA’s application for accreditation as a party-list group with the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
There was also a P26.7-million advance payment for 89,000 tickets for the 2008 movie “Baler.” Unfortunately, 72,150 movie tickets ended up not being used, resulting in a P22.12 million loss for PAGCOR.
Genuino and King were also accused of diverting 72,425 kilos of donated Thai rice meant for typhoon victims. Instead of distributing the rice as is, they reportedly used it for the former Pagcor chairman’s sons’ political campaign by repacking the shipment into smaller bags carrying the images and political slogans of Erwin and Anthony Genuino in 2010.
The prosecution sought to amend “BIDA Production” with “BIDA Foundation Inc.”
Genuino argued that allowing the prosecution to make the amendment will completely change the theory of the case since there was nothing common between the two corporate names.
By claiming that it was BIDA Foundation Inc. that received the amount involved, the prosecution will now be charging them with a different transaction with a different entity. Allowing the prosecution to make the amendment at this point, according to Genuino, would be “at the height of injustice” and it would violate his right to due process and the right to be informed of the nature and cause of the charges.
Custodio adopted Genuino’s MR, while Francisco filed his own and said that the amendment would violate his right to speedy disposition of his case. Francisco added that the amendment would be prejudicial to him by reason of the delay not attributable to the defense.
However, the anti-graft court denied their MRs for lack of merit. “We point out that the arguments raised by the accused are essentially a rehash of their previous arguments and have already been considered by the Court in its resolution dated September 3, 2019 granting the prosecution’s Motion to Amend Informations,” the resolution read.
The court also stressed that the amendment sought by the prosecution changing “BIDA Production” to “BIDA Foundation Inc.” is merely a formal amendment and will not affect the element of the crimes charged.
The four-page resolution was written by Associate Justice Ronald Moreno with the concurrence of Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang and Associate Justice Bernelito Fernandez.