Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) chairman Cristino Naguiat Jr. can either quit his post or take a leave of absence while he is being investigated for bribery, Malacañang said yesterday.
“Any call for resignation or leave for any office, we leave it to the discretion of the official concerned. Bahala na siya diyan (It’s his call),’’ deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte told radio dzRB.
Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz, a former official of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), had earlier called for Naguiat’s resignation amid accusations that he received valuable gifts, including a $6,000-a-night accommodation at the luxurious Wynn Macau Hotel, and $20,000 shopping money from a Japanese casino operator.
Earlier, President Aquino defended Naguiat on bribery allegations made by American casino operator Steve Wynn, now at odds with his Japanese partner Kazuo Okada who reportedly gave the Pagcor chief a total of $110,000 in perks.
But yesterday, Aquino is bent on designating Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. as head of the committee that will conduct an investigation on Naguiat to give him a fair trial.
The President maintained that nobody from his Cabinet is exempted from administrative proceedings or sanctions.
“The least that chairman Naguiat should be able to expect is he gets a fair hearing. Let’s have the allegations (first), let him answer it, then we will weigh the allegations versus his defense of actions or lack of actions,” he stressed.
Meanwhile, the House committee on games and amusement is expected today to look into the alleged bribery of certain Pagcor officials by the Japanese casino operator.
The committee, chaired by Manila Rep. Amado Bagatsing, has set a hearing on Pagcor’s Entertainment City gaming-resort-recreation center project.
However, committee members said they would have to tackle the accusation against some Pagcor officials since the alleged bribery was in connection with Pagcor’s grant to Okada of a gaming license in its Entertainment City.
Okada’s Universal Entertainment-Azure Corp. is one of four hotel-casino operators Pagcor has so far licensed to operate in its casino-entertainment center project.
Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño has asked the House to look into reports that Okada bribed Naguiat, his predecessor Efraim Genuino, members of their families, and other Pagcor officers.
He said these officials might have violated the Anti-Graft Law and the Code of Conduct for Public Officials and Employees.
Binay defends Naguiat
Vice President Jejomar Binay has defended Naguiat from bribery raps, saying he re-established the confidence of investors in the gaming industry.
“Chairman Naguiat has restored integrity and transparency in Pagcor. This is why there is renewed confidence in the gaming industry,” Binay said in a statement.
“He is the unfortunate casualty of a corporate war. He has already refuted the allegations made by one party in the dispute,” he added.
Last year, Naguiat filed plunder and anti-graft charges against Genuino over questionable transactions, including the P1-billion overpriced casino coffee and the P26.7-million funding for the film “Baler” in 2008.
He said the lawsuit filed by Wynn Resorts Ltd. against Okada, “is a business dispute into which I have been dragged.” - With Jess Diaz