Transactions legal, says law firm in Entertainment City controversy

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Kazuo Okada AP FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines — The law firm that has been linked to the controversial plan by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. to put up a multi-billion peso Entertainment City in the country took exception “in the strongest possible terms” to a government panel’s recommendation to include its lawyers in the case to be filed against a Japanese investor and a company funding the project.

“We take exception, in the strongest possible terms, to the NBI investigating panel’s resolution recommending the inclusion of several lawyers of SyCip Salazar Hernandez & Gatmaitan (SSHG) in the prosecution of Mr. Kazuo Okada in connection with his Philippine investments,” SSHG, through its Managing Partner Rafael Morales, said in an emailed statement to INQUIRER.net Monday.

The Department of Justice-National Bureau of Investigation panel recommended the prosecution of several lawyers from SSHG for allegedly violating the Anti-Dummy Law.

The law firm allegedly helped in the creation of three companies that would serve as dummies to Universal Entertainment Corporation, a Japan-based firm, which wanted to operate a casino in the Philippines.

In 2007, it has submitted its application concept proposal to Pagcor for the Entertainment City Project.

However, it cannot be allowed to operate due to constitutional restriction and limit in the Public Land Act that only Filipino citizens or entities at least 60-percent owned by Filipinos.

Universal Entertainment then took the services of SSHG law office which incorporated three firms under Philippine laws—Eagle I and II and Tiger Resort.

“However, facts and evidence gathered indicate that these entities along with several other juridical entities and through the acts of various individuals, were actually dummies or fronts of Universal, meant to circumvent or evade laws of nationalization of certain rights and privileges,” the DOJ-NBI panel had said.

But SSHG claimed in the same statement Monday that the transactions “were legitimate and lawful” and expressed confidence “that a proper investigation will clear our lawyers of any wrongdoing”.

“SSHG and its lawyers have, at all times, acted in full compliance with all laws applicable to the transactions in which they were involved,” Morales said.

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