Philippine prez sacks gov’t lawyer over casino permit

Philippine prez sacks gov’t lawyer over casino permit

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte channeled his inner Donald Trump and fired a top government lawyer who expressed a legal opinion that special economic zones may issue casino permits to operators.

Philippine prez sacks gov’t lawyer over casino permitDuterte’s press conference on Tuesday turned into a scene from Trump’s defunct TV show The Apprentice after Duterte called Philippine Government Corporate Counsel Rudolf Philip Jurado in front of the local media to announce the lawyer’s outright dismissal from his post.

“May I call the government corporate counsel now? Are you here? Because if you are here, come out. You are fired,” Duterte told Jurado, according to the ABS-CBN News report.

The firing of Jurado confirms a news report last week that officials from the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel (OGCC) and members of the Aurora Pacific Economic Zone (APECO) board are the most likely candidates to get the boot from the President, not Philippine Amusement Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) chair Andrea Domingo.

Jurado reportedly drew Duterte’s ire by issuing a legal opinion that it is “clear and categorical” that APECO may grant licenses for online gaming facilities operating outside its jurisdiction as provided by Republic Act 9490 or the APECO Law.

The ex-OGCC lawyer anchored his arguments particularly on two items under Section 12 of the APECO Law, which, in a nutshell, authorized APECO to enter into mutual cooperation agreement with PEZA (Philippine Economic Zone Authority) for the utilization of the PEZA’s resources, facilities, and assets.

Jurado’s opinion reportedly paved the way for the granting of a 75-year permit for a casino to a foreign corporation. A visibly irked Duterte pointed out that Jurado overstepped his authority by acting as if he is a member of PAGCOR.

“If you do that, then you can ramble on, following your theory, to give permits beyond the shores of Luzon and you can do it in Siasi, Jolo,” Duterte said. “And I have been trying to be patient with everybody. But there are always that opportunity to interpret a law or insist in your stupid proposition until the problem gets out of hand.”

Meanwhile, a source informed that the government is quietly conducting an investigation on whether PEZA has been granting licenses to online gambling firms without PAGCOR’s knowledge.

The source, who spoke under the condition of anonymity, alleged that online gambling firms catering to clients from mainland China were able to secure gambling licenses from PEZA. The issue emerged after one of the city mayors complained that he was not able to collect taxes from the online gambling firms because they were reportedly remitting taxes to PEZA.