The Senate on Sunday joined the investigation into bribery allegations hounding past officials of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor).
Games and amusements committee chairman Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III announced he would investigate the allegations that Japanese billionaire Kazuo Okada’s Universal Entertainment Corp. had reportedly paid as much as $30 million to a former Pagcor consultant, Rodolfo Soriano, in 2010 allegedly to secure a license to operate a casino in Pagcor’s Entertainment City.
Soriano, said to be close to former first gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo, supposedly received the payments as Universal was lobbying for tax cuts and other government concessions to boost the profitability of a $2-billion casino it is developing in Entertainment City on Manila Bay.
“This is a serious allegation that merits a full-blown investigation by the Senate. Even as the alleged bribery took place during the previous administration, we need to find out the truth as the Aquino administration is determined to adhere to the daang matuwid or straight path,” Pimentel said.
Pimentel noted that Entertainment City was “a big-ticket project of the national government aimed at drawing more tourists to the country. It should not be tainted at all by any hint of impropriety or wrongdoing.”
“We have to salvage the reputation of this big project as well as of the innocent locators therein,” he said.
Pimentel said his committee would issue summonses to Soriano and other former and current Pagcor officials to shed light on the matter.
Matter of national importance
“The investigation is a matter of national importance as we need to plug loopholes in the law that allow under-the-table deals to take place,” Pimentel said.
To date, two committees in the House of Representatives are investigating the alleged bribery in aid of legislation.
The House committee on games and amusement conducted one hearing on Wednesday while the House good government committee is set to revive a probe begun in 2010 on “various multimillion-peso anomalies attending” Pagcor during the Arroyo administration.
The House good government committee investigation was spurred by a resolution filed by party-list Representatives Teodoro Casiño and Neri Colmenares targeting ex-Pagcor chairman Ephraim Genuino, whom they charged with turning the agency into a “milking cow.”
It was Casiño who reminded House good government chairman Rep. Jerry Treñas of the two-year-old resolution that he and Colmenares filed even before the latest bribery charge was reported.