In President Benigno Aquino III's State of the Nation (SONA) on Monday, rampant corruption in government took on a new and unlikely form: coffee.
Luxury cars, expansive mansions and lavish dinners were pushed to the backseat when Aquino, toward the end of his speech, revealed that the coffee expenditures of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR), amounted to about P1 billion during the previous administration.
"Sa isandaang piso na lang po kada tasa, lalabas na nakakonsumo sila ng sampung milyong tasa," Aquino claimed. "Baka po kahit ngayong iba na ang pamunuan ng PAGCOR ay dilat na dilat pa rin ang mata ng mga uminom ng kapeng ito. Hanapin nga po natin sila, at matanong: nakakatulog pa po kayo?"
Filipino social media users, palpably repulsed by Aquino's blood pressure-raising news, took to the web to air out their surprise and disbelief of PAGCOR's spending on something that would otherwise cost just a few pesos from the local sari-sari store.
Aquino's eye-opening coffee expose, it seems, easily eclipsed other cases he cited in his SONA, as the word "PAGCOR" ranked fifth in Twitter's worldwide trending topics list by the end of Aquino's annual speech.
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Before coffee, there were burgers
But prior to this controversy around coffee, the same government agency had already been embroiled in a food and beverage expenditure that went beyond normal market prices.
In July last year, it was revealed that PAGCOR, under the stewardship of then PAGCOR chief Efraim Genuino, spent more than P21 million for the chicken and hamburger meals allegedly consumed by some 15,000 members of the police force in just a week.
In an earlier interview, Genuino said it has been customary for PAGCOR to give food assistance to policement over the years, and that the amount is merely an accumulated value for the first half of 2010.
“Installment kasi ‘yan. Kung minsan, nakaka-accumulate kami ng P2 million, P3 million, P5 million o P6 million, saka pa lang kami magbabayad," Genuino said in an interview aired over GMA News' “24 Oras." — TJD, GMA News