PCGG’s heyday: Plush hotels, restos the norm

LUXURIOUS hotels and restaurants became the preference of the Presidential Commission on Good Government officials during the Aquino administration for 56 board and stockholders’ meetings of its sequestered companies, the agency said Friday.

Responding to allegations of abuse of resources that came up during the term of its former chairman, the embattled poll chief Andres Bautista—the PCGG assured the public that they have already discontinued past practices that are considered as “excessive and unnecessary.”

“During the previous administration, around 56 times, the board and stockholders’ meetings were held in luxurious hotels like Edsa Shangri-La, Makati Shangri-La, Manila Peninsula, and Cru Steakhouse Marriott,” the PCGG said in a statement Friday.

Excerpts of the meeting venues showed Bautista, who was PCGG chairman from August 2010 to April 2015, frequented either at the Manila Peninsula Hotel in Makati or nearby Edsa Shangri-La Hotel in Mandaluyong City.

From November 2012 to August 2013, the Salonga Room at the PCGG’s offices in Mandaluyong was used only three times, PCGG records showed.

Bautista’s successors, meanwhile, had more flexible choices for their board meetings. From November 2016 to June 2017, board meetings were held either at Edsa Shangri-Lla Hotel, the Hatsune Restaurant at the Bellevue Hotel in Alabang, Man-Ho Restaurant at the Marriott Hotel in Pasay, Cru Steakhouse at Marriott Hotel in Pasay, Canton Road Restaurant at the Shangri-La The Fort in Taguig, and Chef Jessie Restaurant in Makati.

Commission on Elections Chairman Andres Bautista
Bautista came under fire after his estranged wife Patricia Paz said he had 35 bank accounts with the Luzon Development Bank worth P329 million that was not declared in his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth. She said this was part of almost P1 billion in undeclared, ill-gotten wealth.

Bautista has denied the accusations.

In the same statement, the PCGG claimed that there were some consultants during Bautista’s term who were allowed to claim their salaries using a Special Power of Attorney.

“We noticed that several supposed consultants during the previous administration have executed SPAs allowing an employee from the office of Chairman Bautista to receive their salaries,” the agency said.

The previous practice of the concerned sequestered and surrendered corporations of “purchasing millions of pesos worth of gift checks and gift cards for distribution to its officers, and even to members of the media,” during the previous administration was already immediately terminated.

On Wednesday, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II ordered the PCGG to investigate allegations of ill-gotten wealth against its former chairman, Bautista.

Senator Francis Escudero on Friday said if Bautista decides to quit his post, this will not affect the ongoing investigation of the Senate committee on banks and other financial institutions, which he chairs, into the close to P1 billion in ill-gotten wealth he allegedly accumulated.

Earlier Thursday, Bautista said he was considering quitting or taking a leave of absence to protect the interests of his family and Comelec amid the controversy involving his unexplained wealth of up to P1 billion.

On the other hand, Escudero said if Bautista is impeached, his panel would have to stop its investigation.

Senator Grace Poe said the committee, which she co-chairs with Escudero, will decide depending on the progress of the impeachment proceedings in the House of Representatives and of the leadership of the Senate.

Poe reiterated that it would be Bautista’s “personal decision” to resign or take a leave of absence.

“Either way, such would not affect our ongoing probe to scrutinize the involved questionable bank transactions to aid the Senate in finding ways on how to strengthen the current law against money laundering,” Poe told reporters in a text message.

Topics: Presidential Commission on Good Government officials , Aquino administration , Andres Bautista , Patricia Paz , Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II
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