Palace: It’s up to Naguiat to quit or go on leave | Inquirer News

Palace: It’s up to Naguiat to quit or go on leave

Pagcor chairman Cristino Naguiat Jr. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

It’s up to Cristino Naguiat Jr., chairman of the state-owned Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor), to heed calls for him to resign or go on leave while being investigated for receiving luxurious perks from Japanese gambling magnate Kazuo Okada, Malacañang said Sunday.

This is the Palace stand whenever such calls are made on government officials involved in controversies, according to President Benigno Aquino III’s deputy spokesperson, Abigail Valte. She was reacting to calls by retired Archbishop Oscar Cruz for Naguiat to step down.


Valte made the statement as Vice President Jejomar Binay threw his support behind Naguiat.


In a statement, Binay said Naguiat “reestablished the confidence of investors in the gaming industry” as he compared the Pagcor chairman favorably against his predecessor, Ephraim Genuino.

In 2011, Naguiat filed plunder and antigraft charges against Genuino for questionable transactions, including the alleged P1-billion overpriced casino coffee and the P26.7-million funding for the film “Baler” in 2008.

Naguiat is being investigated by the Palace after he was named in a US lawsuit as among Pagcor executives who accepted $110,000 worth of hotel accommodations and illegal payments, courtesy of Okada, to ensure that Okada’s plans for a $2-billion Manila casino would push through.

Okada’s casino on Manila Bay is expected to compete against Wynn Macau.

Steve Wynn, Wynn Resort’s chief executive officer, said Okada’s gifts to Philippine regulators constituted a violation of the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which prohibited US companies doing business overseas from bribing officials to gain a business advantage.

Wynn, erstwhile partner of Okada in Wynn Resorts and Wynn Macau, said in the lawsuit that Naguiat, his wife, three children, a nanny and other Pagcor officials stayed in luxurious Wynn Macau hotel rooms during a five-day stay in September 2010.


The family reportedly stayed in the resort’s most expensive villa at $6,000 a night.

Chanel bag

The lawsuit said the Pagcor chairman also requested and received a Chanel bag worth more than $1,850 for his wife and that Okada, chairman of Universal Entertainment Corp., ordered that each of the Philippine guests be given $5,000 for shopping.

The case was based on a report prepared for the firm’s board by Louis J. Freeh, a former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Excerpts from the report cited by the New York Times:

“Sept. 22, 2010 (14:00): Wynn Macau sends 1 Rolls Royce and 1 Elgrand to the airport, along with Masato Araki, Special Assistant to Mr. Okada; and Kenichiro Watanabe, another Universal associate, to meet arriving party, who arrived on Philippine Airline Flight 352 from Manila. They return with Chairman Cristino L. Naguiat, Rogelio Bangsil and Jeffrey Opinion at 14:45.79. Only Mr. Bangsil furnishes his name upon registration. Ms Lai and Wynn Macau VIP Services manager Beatrice Yeung thereafter checks Pagcor website and identifies Chairman Naguiat’s name from his picture there. Ms Yeung’s log and ongoing entries refer to [I]ncognito (Mr. Naguiat, Cristino L.).

“Naguiat occupies Villa 81, the most expensive accommodation at Wynn Resorts Macau (about 7,000 square feet in size, which then cost about $6,000 per day and is mostly reserved for ‘high rollers’).

“Sept. 22, 2010: The Wynn Encore logbook reflects ‘Incognito (Mr. Naguiat) stayed in Villa 81 Master Bedroom l.’

“The evidence also shows that several weeks after Chairman Naguiat’s intended ‘Incognito’ stay at Villa 81, Mr. Okada’s associates became concerned about the high cost of Chairman Naguiat’s luxury stay at Wynn Resorts Macau. Specifically, Mr. Okada’s associate advised Wynn Resorts Macau that the amount being charged for Chairman Naguiat’s stay was too much over an ordinary business expense.

“Mr. Okada’s associate then asked if Wynn Resorts Macau ‘could reconsider the matter [Chairman Naguiat’s stay] and charge us [Mr. Okada’s company] the original rate [and free upgrade to a villa] since the party directly dealing with on this matter is our company [Mr. Okada’s company] rather than each individual guest [Chairman Naguiat].’ Mr. Okada’s associate further stated that ‘since the amount charged [for Chairman Naguiat] is too much beyond the ordinary room charge, our company [Mr. Okada’s company] will be put in a very difficult position to give reasonable explanations if we are inquired by someone.’”

Industry practice

Naguiat denied receiving any cash benefits from Okada and said his acceptance of hotel accommodations from Wynn was an industry practice. He also said he immediately returned the Chanel bag.

“Any call for resignation or for any official to take a leave, we leave it to the discretion of that official on how to take the call for resignation or for voluntary leave,” Valte said in an interview over government radio dzRB.

“So it’s up to Chairman Naguiat on what his response would be to this call,” she added.

Unfortunate casualty

“[Naguiat] is the unfortunate casualty of a corporate war,” Binay said in his statement. “He has already refuted the allegations made by one party in the dispute.”

The Pagcor chief—a classmate of Mr. Aquino at Ateneo de Manila University—was actively involved in the 2010 presidential campaign, and is believed to be allied with the so-called Samar group that supported an Aquino-Binay ticket against the rival Aquino-Roxas tandem of the Balay group.

Naguiat earlier said the lawsuit filed by Wynn Resorts against Okada “is a business dispute into which I have been dragged.”

He described the charges against him as “outrageous, politically motivated and untrue.”

Naguiat said he would “not be distracted by this issue” and would remain focused on doing his job to turn Pagcor into one of the major contributors of revenue to the Philippine government and people.

‘Nothing wrong’

Naguiat added: “I have done nothing wrong and have not violated any laws. My focus is on doing my job—fulfilling Pagcor’s mission to provide world-class gaming for Filipinos and tourists in an honest, regulated environment and to contribute significant revenues to help build the Philippine nation.

“I will not be distracted from the mission by an internal company dispute.  I am what I have always been since the start of my chairmanship—a public servant, nothing more and nothing less.”

Sour graping

The chairman of the House committee on games and amusement on Sunday said Wynn’s charges were just sour grapes.

Manila Representative Amado Bagatsing is set to hold a press conference Monday before the 1:30 p.m. hearing on the status of the multibillion-peso casino projects in Pagcor’s Entertainment City.

“I will bare the true intention of Wynn and why he is using Pagcor to attain his objective,” Bagatsing said in a text message. “He (Wynn) is embarrassing the country for his selfish goals.”

Bagatsing said that Naguiat was unfairly “vilified” by Wynn who just wanted to get back at Okada.

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Okada earlier sued Wynn for making an inappropriate $135-million donation to University of Macau. In retaliation, Wynn filed the lawsuit against Okada to forcibly buy him out of his 20-percent stake in Wynn Resorts.

TAGS: Government, Kazuo Okada, Pagcor, Politics

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