After being spurned by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR), beleaguered businessman Roberto Ongpin is making “one last attempt” to save PhilWeb. His new offer: Use the shares to build drug rehabilitation centers.
In a letter to the state-run regulator, Ongpin renewed his offer to donate 49% of his PhilWeb stake to the Philippine government. Only this time, the donation was earmarked to support President Rodrigo Duterte’s anti-illegal drug campaign.
“I hereby amend my donation to be used exclusively for the establishment of a nationwide network of drug rehabilitation centers,” the businessman said in his letter.
Last Wednesday, Ongpin announced he will donate 49 percent of his 771.75 million shares in PhilWeb—a Hail Mary pass to save the Philippine-listed company after PAGCOR refused to renew its operating license.
But the state regulator rebuffed the offer due to Duterte’s abhorrence of gambling—both online and onsite—due to the “social ills and decay they foist on our communities as they cater to the more economically vulnerable portion of our population.”
PAGCOR’s explanation paved the way for Ongpin’s final bid, which the businessman had re-angled to appeal to Duterte’s other war—drugs.
“I am a firm believer in the president’s drive against the drug menace,” Ongpin wrote. “As he has pointed out, the elimination of drug lords and drug pushers will not succeed unless this is complemented by an effective drug rehabilitation program.”
PAGCOR can choose to auction off the shares after restoring PhilWeb’s true value, or it can opt to put up a drug rehabilitation agency co-managed by the private sector to receive the donation, the businessman said.
Ongpin, who resigned after being singled out in Duterte’s campaign against oligarchs, said he made the offers to save the jobs of about 700 PhilWeb employees and the 5,000 others who are employed by PAGCOR’s operators in its network of 286 e-Games sites.
“I hope you will forgive me for this one final attempt at not only saving the livelihood of some 6,000 individuals and their families but also to make effective use of my donation, which has now been rejected by PAGCOR,” he said.