LITTLE GOODWILL AROUND IN THE PHILIPPINES (Update)
Online gambling row drags on.
There was not much goodwill on display in the Philippines over Christmas, at least as far as online gambling is concerned as the national president Rodrigo Duterte lashed out at the head of the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (Ceza), implying that long-time chief Jose Mari Ponce was responsible for corruption and bribery regarding online gambling licensing and taxes.
Over the weekend Ponce responded to the presidential tirade by issuing a statement effectively challenging Duterte's allegations by announcing that Ceza is to open its financial and operations records for full inspection by government investigators
“Ceza shall be open to the investigation of its online gaming support services operations, specifically its licensing process, actual operations, books of account, income flow, remittances to the government and other information that may be necessary or that may be required to clear up issues in the investigation,” the statement asserts.
Ponce noted in the statement that he serves at the pleasure of the president, will give his full cooperation and obey all legal directives from the presidential palace regarding Ceza operations.
In other news on the contentious issue, the palace confirmed that government’s Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea is drafting an executive order to empower a special task force led by Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre with a mandate to investigate allegations by the president and Pagcor head Andrea Domingo that online casino operators have been depriving the government of a trillion pesos in lost tax revenue annually.
The task force will focus particularly on licensing, low tax and Freeport enclaves like Cagayan, Aurora and Bataan, according to government sources.