Legislator warns against whitewash of casino briber charges
MANILA, Philippines – Bayan Muna Representative Teddy Casiño called on his colleagues in the House of Representatives on Saturday to ensure that Malacañang does not whitewash the bribery charges against the country’s gambling regulator Cristino Naguiat Jr., and that there would be no “double standard” – one for friends of the President and another for his political enemies.
Reacting to Malacañang’s announcement that it would investigate reports that the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. chairman received bribes from overseas casino investors, Casiño said, “Ordinary people see this probe as Malacañang’s damage control mechanism to recover from the widespread backlash brought about by President Aquino’s premature exoneration of (Naguiat).”
“We hope the probe is not meant simply to bolster the President’s position,” Casiño said.
Casiño said there was also a need to look deeper into questionable practices that have been adopted by past and present officials of Pagcor.
“If indeed receiving lavish gifts and favors is a common practice in the casino industry, the same cannot hold true for public officials in Pagcor since they are bound by a specific code of conduct and prohibitions under the anti-graft law,” he said.
“I wonder, what other ‘industry practices’ are inconsistent with our own laws and policies? What other gifts were given and received between Okada’s company and Pagcor? If Malacañang won’t touch on this, we in Congress certainly can,” Casiño said.
Casiño said that Congress must ensure that there was no “double standard” in this case.
He said “there should be no room for special treatment even if one is the incumbent President’s friend, a former President, or the chief justice of the Supreme Court.”
“At the end of the day all we want is for all our officials to follow the stringent standards that they are sworn to uphold,” Casiño said.
The bribery scandal emerged after US-based Wynn Resorts alleged in a lawsuit filed in the United States earlier this week that estranged business partner Kazuo Okada violated the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act by lavishing more than $110,000 on Naguiat and other Philippine officials to ensure that Okada’s plans for a Manila casino went ahead.
The suit alleged that Okada billeted Naguiat, his wife, three children, a nanny and other Pagcor officials in Wynn Macau hotel rooms during a five day stay in 2010. The family allegedly stayed at the resort’s most expensive suite at $6,000 a night.
It said that Naguiat also requested and received a Chanel designer bag worth more than $1,850 for his wife. Okada supposedly ordered that each of the Philippine guests be given a $5,000 (over P200,000) advance for shopping during their stay in Macau.
Naguiat denied the bribery allegations, saying these were “reckless” accusations made in the heat of a boardroom battle. He denied receiving money and said he returned a Chanel bag left in his room for his wife. He said his trip came after Okada’s proposal to set up a casino in Manila had already been approved by the previous administration.
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