The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. has issued a statement it hopes will shed light on the issue that it has released excessive allowances, mementos, and bonuses to its officers and employees.
Foremost, the giving of 18-karat gold memento rings for 20-year loyalty awardees, as well as cash awards had been stopped since 2016 by the present management headed by chairman and CEO Andrea D. Domingo, Pagcor said in a statement Thursday.
“Despite this directive, we wish to clarify that Pagcor’s Board of Directors—as provided by Section 16 of Presidential Decree Number 1869—has the authority to craft the Company’s personnel policies,” it said in its statement.
It said the exercise of this authority had been affirmed on several occasions by the Office of the President and the Government Corporate Counsel.
Hence, Pagcor’s Board of Directors has the authority to determine appropriate personnel management policies of the Company.
The Commission on Audit recently listed down what it called the “excesses” committed by Pagcor officials and employees since last year.
In 2017, the CoA questioned the P13.020 million worth of 18 karat gold memento rings for 20-year loyalty awardees, as well as cash awards amounting to P12.495 million.
The CoA said the award scheme was actually contained in the Pagcor’s employee’s handbook, but the amount that it has given to its loyal employees were too excessive since a circular issued in 2013 provides a maximum award of P10,000 for loyalty awardees.
Domingo, however, stood her ground and turned to the Office of the President for clarification.
“We recommended and management agreed to seek clarification/approval from the Office of the President on the grant of benefits particularly the loyalty awards to its Pagcor employees,” the CoA said.
Other than the awards, state auditors also questioned the P643,000 cash advances made by Pagcor for its Circle of Extraordinaire Awards, which reportedly has not been approved by the Civil Service Commission.
The CoA said the list of CEO awardees should be submitted first to the CSC but Pagcor management insisted that their board of directors had the authority to set personnel management policies, under Presidential Decree No. 1869 or the Pagcor charter.
Also questioned was the P58.334-million Representation and Transportation Allowance granted to officers as well as car plans amounting to P29.167 million which are supposedly not allowed under the General Appropriations Act of 2017.
Under the 2017 GAA, government officials such as department secretaries can only receive a total of P28,000 RATA a month.
But the Pagcor chairman and CEO reportedly received as high as P110,000.
The CoA said car plans were also excessive as those who had availed of such were already claiming transportation allowance, also a violation of the 2017 GAA.
Even the interchangeability of car plans and housing benefits, amounting to P125.954 million in 2016 and P121.289 million in 2017, were also questioned by the CoA as they were based only on a Board of Directors resolution and without clear presidential approval.
The officials were entitled to at least P950,00 loan, with a maximum amount of P3.5 million for the chairman and CEO.
On Sept. 30, 2011, Pagcor said it even sought the approval of then-President Benigno Aquino III for the adjustments in the salaries and benefits already being received by its personnel, including the loyalty award granted by Pagcor since 2008.
On Nov. 8, 2011, the Governance Commission for GOCCs granted the post facto approval of Pagcor’s total compensation package.
In its statement, Pagcor said the authority of Pagcor’s Board of Directors to determine personnel management policies and the various affirmations and approvals from the OP and GCG apply to the following issues:
1. The compensation package of all PAGCOR personnel from the Chairman and CEO down to the lowest employee;
2. Circle of Extra Ordinaire Awards;
3. Representation and Transportation Allowance and;
4. Car plans and housing benefits
Further, the allegation that the CoA insisted that the granting of both COLA and PERA allowances is tantamount to double compensation even if it is approved by the Government and Corporate Counsel is without merit since it is not the OGCC but the Office of the President who approves the compensation package of Pagcor and which approval was indeed secured.
Meanwhile, the allegation that Pagcor released backpacks directly to the politicians and their representatives was done sans the proper perspective, thus calculated to sensationalize what would have been a mundane detail, it said in its statement.
Not all of the backpacks go directly to the heads of Local Government Units, the so-called “politicians.”
To give proper perspective to this issue, there were 30,000 backpacks, 25,000 were distributed directly to beneficiaries, it said in its statement.
However, from time to time for practicality, wider dissemination, or as a matter of courtesy to elected officials when they make official requests, Pagcor accommodated and relied on the “politicians” since they are the ones who have direct knowledge of the needs of their constituents.
Notably, all backpacks have Pagcor logos so they cannot be mistaken as that bought by the elected officials.
Furthermore, Pagcor contests the allegation that its generosity did not extend to the National Government as well as to the athletes, it added.
The Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) share remains the single largest funding obligation of PAGCOR, which already amounted to more than P13 billion from 1990 to 2017.
In fact, starting 2015, the annual PSC share already exceeded P1 billion, since the PSC share also increases as Pagcor’s Gross Gaming Revenues increase.
Currently, Pagcor is remitting an average of P120 million a month to PSC, it said in its statement.
On top of the PSC share, Pagcor also provides funding for the Sports Benefits & Incentives Act, which already amounts to more than P255 million from 2002 to 2017.
Thus, Pagcor’s total sports-related funding to date already amounts to more than P13.25 billion.
This issue of the computation of the remittance to the PSC is already pending before the Supreme Court of the Philippines in the case of Joseller Guiao v. Pagcor (G.R No. 223845).
It is sub judice as the rule restricts comments and disclosures pertaining to the judicial proceedings to avoid prejudging the issue, influencing the court, or obstructing the administration of justice.
Pending the decision of the SC, Pagcor is obliged to continue with its current computation of the 5 percent PSC share approved by President Fidel Ramos in 1995.
Both PAGCOR and the PSC, being under the supervision of the Office of the President, the latter’s interpretation of the law, which led to the issuance of the memorandum on the computation of the PSC share, is persuasive and deserves respect under the doctrine of respect for administrative or practical construction.
“We have in fact sought clarification from President Rodrigo Duterte on this matter when we received a ‘collection letter’ from OIC Arnold Agustin of the PSC and we are awaiting the President’s reply,” Pagcor said in its statement.
“We reiterate that the news report of ABS-CBN was done with malice because the same has no basis and done to undermine the integrity of Pagcor. Such inaccurate if not false report, contributes to the destabilization effort of those groups opposing the government,” it added.