When it rain, it pours.
Philippines-based gaming technology provider PhilWeb Corporation chairman Roberto Ongpin is finding himself scratching his head again after the country’s Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) ordered his disqualification from the board due to his alleged involvement in the 2009 insider trading scandal.
The SEC order comes four weeks after President Rodrigo Duterte directed the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) to rescind the online gambling licenses it has issued “sometime soon,” to the detriment of PhilWeb.
As consolation, the state corporate regulator granted Philweb’s request for a temporary license to operate in the Philippines pending the result of their meeting with Duterte.
However, Philweb has fallen yet again to another business predicament after the SEC ordered Ongpin to relinquish his position in any of the publicly listed companies in the Philippines for “insider trading” ahead of a bidding war for Philex Mining shares in 2009.
Ongpin currently sits as the chairman of Philweb and mining firm Atok Big Wedge Inc.
The Philweb chairman was also slapped with a P174 million (US$ 3.69 million) fine, or P1 million ($21,200) for each of the 174 counts of insider trading, based on Section 54.1 of the Securities regulation Code. The fine was 10 times larger than the original P17.4 million penalty recommended by the SEC’s enforcement and investor protection department (EIPD).
The Standard reported that the SEC accused the Philweb chairman of gaining material information as a director and as a selling shareholder of Philex when he acquired additional shares in the mining firm before Philex shares were sold to the First Pacific group.
“The imposition of the foregoing penalties [P174 million] is without prejudice to further investigation and the imposition of additional penalties by the commission, for any additional purchases of the unaccounted 17,982,250 Philex shares on the morning of 2 December 2009 by appellant,” SEC said in an order dated July 8, 2016, according to the local newspaper The Standard.
In a disclosure to the Philippine Stock Exchange on Friday, Philweb refuted the allegations of the SEC and vowed to bring the case to the Court of Appeals.
He maintains that the 2009 Philex Mining case has already been junked by the Philippines’ Sandiganbayan for lack of probable cause.
“Twice the Sandiganbayan quashed the case for lack of probable cause. The Ombudsman tried to allege that the behest loan to Ongpin had caused damage to DBP when in fact and in truth, DBP benefited to the extent of Php1.4 billion in this case,” said the disclosure signed by Philweb Corporate Information Officer Cliburn Anthony Orbe. “This particular case now has been shifted by the SEC to an insider trading case, but in no way can this case be called insider trading. The jurisprudence is clear on that. The case had unquestionably prescribed as it was filed almost a year after the two year deadline required in the Securities Regulations Code.”