10 March 2009

More Questions Raised Against Legacy

Legacy Witnesses
The controversy behind the Legacy Group takes another twist yesterday (9 March 2009) after it was revealed by two witnesses that lavish gifts, including a house and lot and a Ford Expedition, were given to a commissioner of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to buy his silence.

According to former Legacy chief operating officer Carolina Hinola and chief finance officer Namnama Pasetes-Santos, Legacy Group owner, Celso de los Angeles, has a close relationship with SEC Commissioner Jesus Enrique Martinez during the Senate hearing on trade and commerce chaired by Sen. Manuel Roxas II.

It gets better and better from there on as the two witnesses also implicated the involvement of ParaƱaque Representative Eduardo Zialcita. They testified that they prepared vouchers and checks of PhP 100,000.00 a month "for and in the name" of Rep. Zialcita as consultancy fees.

The defense of those implicated are, of course, very predictable. However, as they continue to talk and deny any involvement in the alleged questionable deals, more inconsistencies surfaced which puts more doubt on their sincerity more than anything else. If they are only following the advise of their counsels, then they better try to hire new ones.

Martinez denied having received the cash during the hearing only to admit later it was his son's company - Spin Management Corporation - that supposedly sold the sports-utility vehicle (SUV) to De los Angeles. So what he is basically saying is that it is proper for any of his family members to directly deal with the family members of De los Angeles, the owner of a company SEC is trying to regulate, as long as he did not have a hand on it. For those who are familiar with how Filipino families interact and help each other, it is highly doubtful that Martinez really did keep his distance from any business transaction of his son.

De los Angeles also retracted an earlier claim that he had never bought an Expedition from Martinez by boasting that he has several SUVs and none came from the SEC Commissioner. However, The Philippine Star reported that he later retracted his statements by admitting owing an Expedition that is still registered under Martinez's son's company. So what is really the final statement here?

Even Rep. Zialcita denied being a consultant or having been consulted by Legacy Group. He also denied having received personally, any checks or funds from the company. How about through a conduit? However, he admitted receiving assistance from De los Angeles "by way of donations voluntarily offered and freely given on behalf of the underprivileged families." Yeah right. So, does the donation translate to about PhP 100,000.00 per month? Are the funds subject to Commission on Audit (COA) rules and regulations?

More questions are raised as the Senate digs deeper into the alleged anomalies committed by the Legacy Group which led to its bankruptcy. Questions that only adds fuel to the growing sentiment that several government officials may be involved either as a beneficiary of questionable transactions or as a willing supporter of its fraudulent operation. However, time will tell if actual arrests will be made and criminal charges filed that will paved the road to the recovery of PhP 24 billion worth of investments poured by hapless depositors.