‘CAUGHT IN THE ACT’ | SunStar Bacolod files qualified theft, estafa raps vs 2 ex-employees over P2.3-M ad transactions

Anthony Onrejas (left), SunStar Management head of SunStar Publishing, Inc., with the SunStar Bacolod team on Tuesday, April 16.
Anthony Onrejas (left), SunStar Management head of SunStar Publishing, Inc., with the SunStar Bacolod team on Tuesday, April 16.
The SunStar Bacolod team led by its editor-in-chief, Marchel Espina, after the filing of the case at the City Prosecutor’s Office on Tuesday, April 16.
The SunStar Bacolod team led by its editor-in-chief, Marchel Espina, after the filing of the case at the City Prosecutor’s Office on Tuesday, April 16.

SunStar Bacolod Publishing Inc. filed qualified theft and estafa charges before the Bacolod City Prosecutor's Office on Tuesday, April 16, against its two former employees in relation to more than P2.3 million worth of unaccounted advertisement transactions.

The respondents were identified as Leilanne Kho of Barangay 21, Bacolod City, and Quinly Golez of Barangay 4, Silay City.

Kho was the paper's former business manager and had been employed with SunStar Bacolod from November 18, 2013, until her termination on September 1, 2023, while Golez, a former marketing assistant, was with the company from May 17, 2017. Her employment was also terminated on September 1, 2023.

Golez, who reportedly introduced herself as the daughter of SunStar Bacolod local partner Jimmy Golez, as claimed by the newspaper clients, is not related to Mr. Golez.

In the nine-page complaint-affidavit signed by Anthony Onrejas, SunStar Management head of SunStar Publishing, Inc. and authorized representative of SunStar Bacolod, the case stemmed from an alleged conspiracy of the two former employees in overpricing of advertising rates and tampering with the official receipts of SunStar Bacolod last year.

Onrejas was accompanied by the company’s legal counsel, lawyer Jasper Pelayo, and the SunStar Bacolod team led by its editor-in-chief, Marchel Espina, during the filing of the case on Tuesday, April 16, before the City Prosecutor’s Office.

In the complaint-affidavit, it said that on August 2, 2023, Onrejas and Pelayo served Kho and Golez a notice to explain in writing the accusations of conspiracy in tampering with the official receipts of SunStar Bacolod.

It said that the two employees tampered with the receipts given to the clients by overpricing the advertisement rates as compared to that of SunStar Bacolod’s file copy, which was reflected in the Books of Accounts of the paper.

Onrejas and Pelayo also saw with their own eyes “how the pair tampered by overpricing or doubling the advertisement rate in the white receipt compared to the corporation’s file copy” after a client came by the office while they were serving the notice to explain on August 2, 2023.

“Right after the incident, Golez and Kho admitted to the tampering charges and promised to pay back whatever the damages they may have caused,” the affidavit said.

In a letter of explanation and resignation dated August 4, 2023, submitted to Pelayo, Golez said it was her idea to overprice and tamper with the official receipts, which she proposed to Kho.

Kho, in her explanation and resignation letter, also dated August 4, 2023, corroborated Golez’s admission over the tampering charges. She also pointed out that they would “try to double the price of the ad rates so that the excess amount will be divided between them. She explained that the original receipt received by the client is higher compared to that received in the coffers of the SunStar Bacolod.”

Kho also admitted in her letter that she is part of these conspired acts since she is also receiving money.

Both Kho and Golez were terminated by SunStar Management on September 1, 2023.

Prior to their termination, it was said that Golez did not follow the preventive suspension order by “deceitfully acting as SunStar agent or employee and accepting advertisement materials despite the legal barriers during the said prevention period,” the affidavit said.

Due to the unwanted situation that happened in SunStar Bacolod, the management formed an Audit Team to attest and ascertain the level of damage that transpired from January until June 2023 in the paper, the affidavit said.

The team was composed of Onrejas and Jade Laranjo, operations analyst of SunStar Publishing, Inc.

During the internal probe, the Audit Team gathered all newspaper issues from January until June 2023.

“Since the main issue was tampering or overpricing of receipts, the Audit Team carefully and technically performed within the guidelines from the Advertising Rates of SunStar Bacolod. Depending on the size of the advertisement, a corresponding rate should appear in the Books of Accounts of SunStar Bacolod as stipulated and mandated by our rates,” the complaint-affidavit said.

Onrejas said, “First, it came as a shock since we found out that there were several advertisements appearing in the SunStar newspaper without any ad contracts. Ad contract is the main source for the client to pay for its advertising obligations with SunStar Bacolod. Without the ad contract, no advertisement should be posted in the newspaper. Furthermore, if an advertisement did appear in the newspaper without any ad contract, it means, no payment has been made to SunStar.”

The discrepancies or advertisement with no contracts from January to June 2023 are evident in the audit findings, the complaint said, stressing that SunStar Bacolod suffered actual damages amounting to P1,874,902.38.

Based on the complaint-affidavit, P440,758.10 worth of ads were published in the newspaper in January with no contracts; P355,341.61 in February; P491,423.63 in March; P171,522.69 in April; P134,230.99 in May; and P281,625.36 in June.

The affidavit also pointed out that as part of their duties and obligations with SunStar Bacolod, the respondents are deemed to see to it that advertising postings should be well supported with advertising contracts. Further, advertising postings should be properly paid for by the client.

Circumstances will show that a sample of “no contract” advertisements are government ads which in the most common sense will require advertising contracts and being government contracts, they are requested by an office which always has the capacity to pay any advertising services, the document said.

“The absence of advertising contracts are clear cut evidence of abuse of trust and confidence over the positions held by respondents Golez and Kho. In this case, there is clear taking of money, with intent to gain, and clearly, without the consent of SunStar Bacolod. As the same money is stolen due to a breach of trust in their respective positions, the respondents should be liable for qualified theft,” the complaint-affidavit stressed.

It also said that the acts of Golez and Kho “may also be a crime of estafa since they receive the money for payment and convert the same for their own use or benefit.”

On the overpricing of advertising rates and tampering of receipts, the Audit Team found the discrepancy or under-declaration amounting to P474,351.85 from January to June 2023.

“Taking everything in context, including the reason for the termination of employment, absence of advertisement contracts, and discrepancies in the recorded Books of Accounts via the Audits Findings, we can ultimately recognize that Respondents Golez and Kho are guilty of either qualified theft or estafa,” the complaint-affidavit said.

It also stressed that the total actual damages that Kho and Golez caused amounted to P2,349,254.23.

The complainant also sought the court to order the two to pay P300,000 in exemplary damages to SunStar Bacolod Publishing, Inc.*


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