Payroll fraud at Philippine Sports Commission unmasked

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A PHILIPPINE Sports Commission (PSC) employee is now detained at the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) for his involvement in an alleged payroll fraud with investigators initially declaring that the scheme has been going on for the past five years that netted the suspect of at least P14 million.

NBI agents arrested Paul Michael Padua Ignacio, who is assigned at the PSC Personnel Department, in an entrapment operation at around 11 a.m. on Tuesday at the PSC Administration Building in Malate, Manila.

Ignacio allegedly padded the PSC payroll for athletes and coaches by including inactive members of the national team.

Iroy

Atty. Guillermo Iroy, one of the PSC’s two Deputy Executive Directors who handles the agency’s legal affairs, said Ignacio did not resist arrest and claimed he “was already aware” of his predicament.

“Charges of falsification of documents and qualified theft are expected to be filed against Mr. Ignacio, but the latter would have more weight in the case because it is non-bailable,” Iroy told BusinessMirror.

Ignacio is said to have admitted guilt when interviewed by a radio reporter while he was detained at the NBI headquarters.

The PSC sought the NBI’s help after the LandBank of the Philippines Century Park Hotel Branch also in Malate—through its vice president Marietta Cabusao—alerted the sports agency of a suspected anomaly in its payroll.

The LandBank official said they monitored “large cash transactions and aggregated transactions,” all of which merited a “red flag.” The transactions were all traced to Ignacio’s LandBank payroll account with the PSC.

Iroy said the scheme is believed to have been going on for the past five years when Ignacio was still assigned at the PSC’s IT department, the Information Systems Unit. There, he had digital access to the payroll for the more than 1,000 national athletes and coaches.

Ignacio, Iroy said, was responsible for encoding the athletes and coaches payroll, the final procedure before the disk drives are submitted to the LandBank a day before pay day.

“Suffice it to say that there were red flags which alerted us, and so we acted accordingly,” PSC Officer in Charge Ramon Fernandez said also on Tuesday.

Fernandez

 “We hope that we can get to the truth and bring the accountable to justice swiftly. The PSC will never waver in its duty to protect the interest of its stakeholders and the Filipino people,” added Fernandez, who is subbing for on leave chairman William Ramirez.

Iroy furthered that the LandBank noted one alarming transaction that had Ignacio withdrawing P2 million from his account.

Ignacio is in his late 20s and was hired as an IT personnel by the PSC in 2011. He is a Contract of Service (COS) employee, meaning he is not an organic personnel of the agency.

BusinessMirror learned that Ignacio is now engaged in several personal businesses, prompting the PSC to request the NBI and other concerned government agencies to conduct a lifestyle check.

Iroy added that Ignacio’s alleged involvement in the athletes and coaches payroll scheme could be a part of a bigger picture.

“Mr. Ignacio also handled the payroll of COS employees before, and the PSC has more than 300 COS employees. I believe that is worth looking into,” Iroy said.

Also catching the PSC and NBI’s attention, Iroy said, was Ignacio admitting he knew he was getting arrested.

“How could he have known his arrest?” Iroy asked.

Like most of his co-employees, Ignacio is working from home as the PSC maintains a skeletal work force amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

“When LandBank alerted us in a letter [dated July 7], we immediately convened and sought the NBI’s help last Friday,” Iroy said. “We then asked Mr. Ignacio to report for work and that he bring along his laptop.”

Iroy said the PSC sought the NBI’s help in accordance with a memorandum of agreement between the PSC and the Department of Justice—signed on December 20, 2018, on matters involving such schemes.

PSC Executive Director Merlita Ibay signed the letter addressed to NBI OIC Director Eric Distor.

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