Philippines president switches targets

News on 25 Dec 2016

Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte kept the anti-online gambling pot boiling over the weekend, clarifying that his recent criticism of the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (see previous reports) was in fact intended for the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority’s chairman Jose Mari Ponce.

Our readers will recall that Duterte claimed in a public statement last week: “The one who gets appointed to PEZA, he gets about P300 billion selling the umbrella-type of license. It’s good that I’ve learned about it.” He went on to reference the recent bribery accusations against fugitive Macau online gambling businessman Jack Lam, claiming that cases like this happened because of the weak leadership at PEZA.

In the latest presidential statement on the issue, Duterte spokesman Ernesto Abella gave reporters the president’s version of his earlier comments:

“Ceza, according to the President, has unremitted earnings amounting to P300 billion annually; it is currently headed by Jose Mari Ponce, a holdover from past administrations, who was appointed in 2004,” Abella said.

He added that the president had mentioned that he was still looking for the “proverbial honest man” to head the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority, “which he inadvertently referred to as Peza – or Philippine Economic Zone Authority.”

Local newspapers also reported that whilst speaking in the local language and referring to bribery and corruption, Duterte had said:

“Even about Jack Lam, we know about it, they have this… [expletive] game that’s online, it’s being played here, the gamblers here [in the Philippines] get taxed but the gamblers from abroad, they receive it, but we have no records [of foreign gamblers paying taxes to the Philippines].

“Andrea [Domingo, the chair of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp.] said we don’t get anything, so I asked her, ‘How much would we get if we did [tax CEZA online gaming operations]? [Domingo’s] estimate was 300 billion [pesos]. The government isn’t earning that, it’s all going to that Peza head. A lot of people are recommending someone there—I know, I won’t mention names—that’s why I was never tempted to assign a person there,” the President said.

Ponce has not yet responded to the president’s comments.

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