DOTr takes up cudgels for Tugade: ‘He’s an upright man’
The Department of Transportation (DOTr) on Wednesday belied allegations that Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade may have been a protector of casino tycoon Jack Lam’s alleged illegal operations when he was president of Clark Development Corp. (CDC).
Assistant Transportation Secretary Cherie Mercado said that while Tugade did know Lam as one of the locators in Clark, it doesn’t necessarily follow that he committed wrongdoing, as alleged by the group Road Users Protection Advocates (Rupa), which is campaigning for the ouster of Tugade.
“Secretary Tugade is an upright man. He abhors corruption,” Mercado said.
She pointed out that even if Lam’s Fontana Leisure Parks and Casino operated at Clark Freeport, which is under the jurisdiction of CDC, the governing body does not grant online gambling permits.
“In fact, Secretary Tugade was very strict in granting [business process outsourcing] permits to make sure it was not being used as front for online gambling,” she said.
CDC president Noel Manankil, who served as Tugade’s vice president for finance during his stint at CDC, also vouched for the transport chief’s record, noting that it was during Tugade’s term that strict casino regulations were enforced at Clark.
“In fact, he ordered the closure of one big casino for nonpayment of the government’s share. The government was then able to collect the arrears and other casinos followed. Regular audit was also made to monitor the revenues,” Manankil said.
Manankil said it was also during Tugade’s term that Clark locators were asked to submit additional documents before applications for work permits were endorsed to the Department of Labor and Employment and Bureau of Immigration, ensuring that the hiring of foreigners was aboveboard.
In response to “baseless accusations,” Tugade is concentrating on his work, the DOTr said in a separate statement.
Among the solutions the DOTr is working on to ease the country’s transport problems, it said, are the release of driver’s license cards by the first quarter of 2017, reopening of the Philippine National Railways line to Bicol, relaunch of the Pasig Ferry system and opening of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Expressway section connecting Terminal 1 to Terminal 3.
Rupa mission: Tugade ouster
Mercado fired spitballs at Rupa, which she said was formed “only to besmirch the reputation” of Tugade and the DOTr.
“This group has not laid down a single advocacy for road users. It is very clear that the only thing they care about is for Tugade to leave the DOTr,” she said.
“They have no searchable profile or a mission statement nor have they advocated any issue to protect road users. Their Facebook page is newly formed, with all eight posts against Tugade. It is apparent that the only thing they are advocating is the ouster of the transportation secretary,” she said.
Lam’s lawyer, Raymond Fortun, earlier said there was nothing illegal about the online gambling business inside Fontana’s luxurious villas because Lam had a license from the Cagayan Export Zone Authority, the sole agency that could issue the special license apart from state-owned Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor).
In late November, 1,316 Chinese nationals were arrested for working illegally in Fontana.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II later alleged that Lam, through former Senior Supt. Wally Sombero, offered him P200,000 for each of the Chinese to be released.
He said he was also offered P100 million a month for the protection of Lam’s casino operations in the country.
Aguirre said Pagcor chair Andrea Domingo was also offered a 1-percent share of Fontana’s monthly gross revenues, an allegation Fortun has denied. —WITH A REPORT FROM MIGUEL R. CAMUS
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