Sandiganbayan junks ex-Pagcor chief's bid for dismissal of graft raps

By LLANESCA T. PANTI,GMA Integrated News

The Sandiganbayan has junked the motion of former Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) chairperson Efraim Genuino seeking acquittal in 19 graft and 20 malversation of public funds charges due to lack of merit.

The cases involved Pagcor’s P26.7 million purchase of film tickets in 2009 for the movie "Baler" for the benefit of BIDA Foundation.

The anti-graft court junked the manifestation and motion filed by Genuino wherein the former Pagcor official argued that he should be cleared of the criminal liabilities.

He said the two Supreme Court decisions dated April 27, 2021 (G.R. 213655) and June 15, 2021 (G.R. 230818) involving Notice of Disallowances issued by the Commission on Audit (COA) on Pagcor ruled that the P26.7 million Pagcor money spent for the advance purchase of Baler film tickets was under Pagcor’s operational expenses fund.

This supposedly meant that its disbursement would only need approval of the Pagcor board which it lawfully gave as provided under Section 7 of Pagcor charter.

“The Court finds the subject motions bereft of merit. To begin with, jurisprudence provides that the doctrine of the case means that whatever has once been irrevocably established as the controlling legal rule of a decision between the same parties in the same case continues to be the law of the case, whether correct on general principles or not, so long as the facts on which such decision was predicated continue to be facts of the case before the court,” the Sandiganbayan said.

The anti-graft court said the Supreme Court decision on G.R. No. 230818  (Genuino v. Commission on Audit (COA) et al.) only covered the former Pagcor chief's petition for certiorari assailing COA's decision on the corporation's financial assistance to a homeowner's association for the construction of a flood control and drainage system.


In addition, the Sandiganbayan said the Supreme Court decision under G.R. No. 213655 (Genuino v. COA, et al.) only involved Genuino’s consolidated petitions for certiorari assailing an earlier COA decision.

The said COA decision affirmed the notice of disallowance on PAGCOR's  release of P26.7 million from its funds for the purchase of Baler film tickets in favor of the foundation.

“Clearly, the issues involved in the said cases are materially different from the issues in these cases. [And] while the factual antecedents of G.R. No. 213655 are related to the present cases, it must be underscored that  the issues resolved by the High Tribunal [in this case such as] the jurisdiction of COA to conduct a governmental audit over PAGCOR funds, is unassociated with the criminal  charges  against  the accused herein,” the Sandiganbayan said.

“To be clear, the present cases stemmed from the criminal information filed by the Office of the Ombudsman with this Court on May 27, 2013, and not on the said Notice of Disallowances issued by the COA. Thus, the guilt or innocence of the accused may only be determined by the Court after a  consideration of the totality of evidence submitted  by the parties,” the Sandiganbayan added.

Further, the Sandiganbayan said that the Supreme Court decisions invoked by Genuino only relate to the grave abuse of discretion committed by the COA in conducting an audit of Pagcor’s accounts beyond the 5% franchise tax and 50% of the government's share in its gross earnings as stated in Section 15 of Pagcor charter.

“To be sure, the Supreme Court made no pronouncement as to the guilt or innocence of the accused in relation to the criminal charges filed against them in these cases,” the Sandiganbayan said.—LDF, GMA Integrated News