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PR manager denies getting 'kickbacks' from PCSO deals

While almost in tears, a former advertising and promotions manager of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) on Thursday denied he had received P1.5 billion in alleged kickbacks from the charity fund's ad placements. "I committed no crime, I committed no graft, I committed no corruption, I committed no tax evasion, I oppressed nobody, I'm innocent of the charges leveled against me," former PCSO PR manager Manuel Garcia said during Thursday's Senate blue ribbon committee. The Senate panel earlier summoned Garcia for his alleged receipt of a 40-percent commission from PCSO's media projects. He supposedly received P1.5 billion in kickbacks from advertising placements from 2003 to 2010. At the hearing, advertising executives Alexander Quisumbing and Ludovico Yuseco claimed they deposited over P16 million and P12 million, respectively, to Garcia's account. Garcia, however, said that he was not a top official who has power to recommend projects nor disburse funds. "I'm not a big fish at the PCSO yet I have been subjected to this," he said. Earlier in the hearing, Garcia asked the Senate panel to excuse him from the probe because the accusations made against him were already filed before the Office of the Ombudsman and the court. "These charges are already before the Ombudsman and the court. May I now plead on humanitarian grounds that I be spared the rigorous interment of this investigation and allow me to instead answer these charges in the Ombudsman and the court," he said. "I'm very sick, I am suffering from acute hypertension... my doctors advised me to avoid stressful situations. This investigation is very stressful and it can be very life-threatening to me more so because of the seriousness of the accusations against me," he said. But Senate blue ribbon chairman Sen. Teofisto Guingona III turned down the request. "You are not excused and if your reason is your health, the Senate doctor is just there beside you," he said. Garcia just invoked his right against self-incrimination when he was asked whether he was just being used as a decoy by another person. Also, he refused to confirm whether the bank account exhibited by Guingona belonged to him. According to the Commission on Audit, PCSO spent P2.3 billion advertising funds from 2001 to 2005; P1 billion in 2006; P686 million in 2007, P968 million in 2008, P1.6 billion in 200; and P1.75 billion in 2010. — LBG, GMA News