The online news portal of TV5
MANILA, Philippines – Pending the outcome of an investigation into suspected anomalies that attended the forging of contracts involving the envisioned multibillion-peso Entertainment City, officials of the state gaming agency have been advised by lawmakers to defer the project.
Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) officials attending a budget hearing were told to await the result of an investigation that they allegedly accepted gifts from Japanese casino magnate Kazuo Okada.
At the same time, PAGCOR officials told lawmakers they were awaiting the outcome of a separate inquiry into whether or not certain corporations involved in the project are actually dummy firms of the previous management under Ephraim Genuino.
At the hearing of the House of Representatives' Committee on Appropriations on the P2.006 trillion proposed budget for 2013, House leaders lauded PAGCOR for ramping up the agency’s revenues---to a “record” P36.65 billion in 2011, which they target to raise further to P45 billion this year---but reminded officials the agency is primarily a regulator, not an entity to encourage or directly participate in gambling.
Prior to grilling by congressmen, PAGCOR chief Cristino Naguiat traced the continued increase of revenue to the improved gaming mix in PAGCOR casinos and the enhanced marketing and gaming offerings of the state-owned casinos nationwide.
House Minority Leader Danilo Suarez cited the agency’s accomplishments but reminded officials their mandate is to regulate and not to encourage gambling.
Ethics probe important – Casino
Meanwhile, Party-list Rep. Teodoro Casino of Bayan Muna, warned Pagcor officials they may have been in violation of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act for receiving “any gift, present, share, percentage, or benefit,” and of the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, when they agreed to accept favors from Okada at least three times in Las Vegas and Macau.
“Knowing all these, bakit nagpalibre pa kayo kay Okada sa Macau? Hindi ba ito violation ng ating code of conduct and ethical standards at ng anti-graft laws natin? The freebies might be an industry practice but you are not an ordinary company, you are a public corporation imbued with public interest and subject to government standards. Shouldn't we hold you liable for violating the code of conduct and anti-graft laws,” Casino told Naguiat.
Anomalies believed to have been incurred in the time of Naguiat’s predecessor also bear serious watching, according to the congressman. Among these were anomalies unearthed regarding the P13-billion land acquisition for the project which involves the suspected dummy corporations Eagle 1 and Eagle 2 owned by Okada and persons closely associated with former Pagcor chief Genuino, as well as the conflict of interest of Genuino, who granted the provisional license for Okada's Tiger Entertainment Co.
Casino advised Naguiat, "It would be best for Pagcor to suspend the projects pending the outcome of investigations.”
Naguiat said his office is awaiting the findings of the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel (OGCC) on the project’s legality.
House Deputy Minority Leader Maria Milagros Magsaysay, in the same hearing, raised the purchase of bottled mineral water, amounting to P8.2 million, without public bidding.
Even as the administration is criticizing the past Pagcor management for paying over P1 billion for coffee drinks from August 2001 to June 2010, it should not be involved in another anomaly, Magsaysay said.
Naguiat explained, however, the bottled mineral water deal followed the procurement law as the purchasing process was centralized.