Pagcor chief: Roque sought meeting as Pogo ‘lawyer’

Pagcor chief: Roque sought meeting as Pogo ‘lawyer’

By: - Reporter / @MRamosINQ
/ 05:30 AM July 11, 2024

Pagcor chief: Roque sought meeting as Pogo ‘lawyer’

Former presidential spokesperson Atty. Harry Roque. — file photo/Ryan Leagogo

MANILA, Philippines — When he introduced her to us, he said Ong was having problems regarding the payment of billings for (Lucky South)… They owe (Pagcor) about $500,000 It was former presidential spokesperson Harry Roque who tried to persuade the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) to renew the permit of an illegal Philippine offshore gaming operator (Pogo) that authorities raided in Porac, Pampanga province, last month.

Pagcor Chair Alejandro Tengco made the revelation at Wednesday’s continuation of the Senate investigation on the Pogo industry, which has been linked to many cases of murder, kidnapping, online scams, human trafficking, torture, money laundering and other serious crimes.


READ: Pagcor: Ex-Cabinet official lobbied for raided Pogos


According to Tengco, Roque went to his office on July 26, 2023, after the former Cabinet official had asked for a meeting.

He said Roque accompanied Katherine Cassandra Li Ong, who was introduced to him as an official of Lucky South 99 Outsourcing Inc., the Pogo company that the Philippine Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC) raided last month for its alleged involvement in cyber-scamming activities.

Roque, who had served as former President Rodrigo Duterte’s mouthpiece for four years, had introduced himself as Ong’s lawyer, Tengco added.

He noted that Pagcor Assistant Vice President Jesse Mariz Fernandez joined him in his meeting with Roque and Ong.

Unpaid Pagcor fees

The Pagcor chief, however, quickly clarified that Roque did not try to use his influence as a former high-ranking government official to facilitate Lucky South’s application for an extension of its gaming license.

“Roque was there [in the meeting]. But he did not pressure [us]. He was just asking us if we could help Ong,” Tengco said in response to a question from Sen. Risa Hontiveros, who presided over the five-hour proceedings.


“When he introduced her to us, he said Ong was having problems regarding the payment of billings of [Lucky South]… They owe [Pagcor] about $500,000,” he said.

Tengco recalled that Roque and Ong also asked for assistance regarding the approval of the Pogo firm’s gaming license after Pagcor’s board of directors approved a “restructuring” in its processing of permits for offshore gaming companies.

Lucky South’s license, he said, was set to expire in October 2023.

“Because we imposed new guidelines, they wanted to submit [documents] for [Lucky South’s] reapplication,” Tengco said.

From its initial office area of 3,000 square meters, he said Lucky South had asked Pagcor to allow it to increase its offices to 9,000 square meters, or three times bigger than its original space.

Lucky South, as it turned out, had built 46 buildings inside a 10-hectare property that it leased in Royal Garden Estate in Porac town.

Frequent follow-up

In his testimony, Tengco said Ong told him and Fernandez that they had found out that their authorized representative, Dennis Cunanan, did not remit the money that Lucky South was regularly giving him to pay its monthly regulatory fees.

Cunanan had been previously convicted three times for his role in the P10-billion pork barrel racket as the former head of the defunct Technology Resource Center.

Tengco said Fernandez had sent a letter demanding Lucky South settle its unpaid regulatory fees for six months, which amounted to almost $500,000.

Ong, he said, then asked him to allow the company to settle their financial obligations through staggered payments.

Asked by Hontiveros if Roque followed up his request with Tengco, the Pagcor chair said he actually communicated with Fernandez, who heads the state regulator’s offshore gaming license department.

Fielding questions from the senator, Fernandez confirmed that the former Cabinet member called her five times and sent her a text message asking for an update on the request of Lucky South.

“He was just asking about the lacking documents they need to submit for them to comply,” Fernandez said.

On May 4, she said she informed Roque of their decision to reject Lucky South’s application.

“So he followed up a total of six times. That’s already par for the course,” Hontiveros noted.

Only an ‘accommodation’

But Roque rejected Tengco’s claim, saying he only provided legal services to Whirlwind Corp., a service provider of the Pogo company.

He also alleged that Ong did not introduce herself to the Pagcor officials as a representative of Lucky South.

Roque’s name first floated after PAOCC personnel recovered from one of Lucky South’s buildings a document that the former Cabinet official had signed.

“I am not and have never been a legal counsel to any illegal Pogo. Neither was I counsel to Lucky South,” the former Cabinet official said in a statement.

“I also did not participate in preparing Lucky South’s organizational chart, which identified me as their legal counsel,” he said.

Roque claimed that he only accompanied Ong “because I thought Lucky South, Whirlwind’s principal, was a victim of estafa.”

“By way of accommodation, I joined Ong since I was then persuading Whirlwind to invest in two energy projects of which I was the primary proponent,” he said.

Speaking with reporters after the hearing, Tengco insisted that Roque had served as Lucky South’s counsel, as shown by the organizational chart that the Pogo firm had submitted to Pagcor.

He said that the document was attached to the company’s application for a renewal of license, which it sent to Pagcor in September 2023.

“In the document they submitted, [it stated there] ‘Harry Roque, Legal Group,’” he said.

Cunanan issues denial

Cunanan, in a statement issued on Wednesday through his lawyer, Froilan Clerigo, also denied statements linking him to the supposed meeting at the Pagcor chair’s office.

“Cunanan is unaware of the precise reasons why Ong and Roque felt the need to involve his name. However, it is evident that they engaged with Tengco to secure a concession that served their own interests, … doing so at the expense of Cunanan’s reputation,” it said.

The statement noted that Cunanan, whose name is included in the list of individuals cited in contempt by the Senate panel for their refusal to attend the hearing, was no longer associated with Lucky South and was unable to defend himself, making him an easy target for blame.

It said Cunanan “had ceased his association with Lucky South” months before the alleged meeting between Tengco, Ong and Roque.

The statement also claimed that Cunanan did not receive a subpoena for the Senate hearing in person, “as he would have refuted these unfounded allegations directly.”

At the same time, it said that Ong, as the authorized representative of Lucky South, would have received notices from Pagcor regarding the arrears as early as the second month of that year and would have been aware of any alleged embezzlement by Cunanan as early as February 2023,” it said, pointing out that “it is inconceivable that they would continue to entrust Cunanan with subsequent payments if he had indeed embezzled their money.”

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The substantial amount of $500,000 allegedly embezzled by Cunanan should have prompted Ong or Lucky South to conduct an investigation and file a formal complaint, it said, considering that “a sum of this magnitude, approximately P27 million, would have undoubtedly left a discernible paper trail that relevant government agencies could have traced.”

TAGS: Alejandro Tengco, Harry Roque, illegal POGO, Pagcor, Porac

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