Some solons come to Naguiat's defense, assail Steve Wynn
MANILA, Philippines - Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR) Chairman Cristino Naguiat Jr. said on Monday he will not resign over allegations of bribery that emerged from a corporate dispute between Wynn Resorts owner Steve Wynn and Japanese gaming tycoon Kazuo Okada.
Naguiat told reporters he did nothing wrong even after he admitted accepting free accommodations in Wynn Macau from Okada in 2010. Okada allegedly billeted Naguiat and his family in Wynn Macau’s most expensive suite for five days in 2010. The suite was supposedly priced at $6,000 a night.
"Para sa isang kwarto, para sa isang maliit na kwarto, $2 billion ang investment nila [Okada's Universal Entertainment], nakakatawa naman na ma-impleuwensiyahan ako sa isang kwarto," Naguiat said.
He insisted there was no conflict with his role as gaming regulator when he accepted the free accommodations, and that he would not resign.
"Hindi (mag-reresign). Wala akong ginagawang masama," he added.
Based on thelawsuit filed in the US by Wynn, Okada allegedly violated the US’ Foreign Corrupt Practices Act when he spent $110,000 on Naguiat and other officials to ensure that plans for a casino here will push through.
Efraim Genuino, the chairman of PAGCOR under the Arroyo administration, was also named in the suit as having accepted gifts from Okada.
On Sunday, Deputy Presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said it was up to Naguiat to decide whether to heed the calls for a leave of absence, or even resignation.
“Any call for resignation [or leave] for any office, we leave it to the discretion of the official [concerned]. Bahala na sya diyan,” she said.
Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz had called for Naguiat’s resignation amid the bribery scandal that arose last week. Malacañang was also criticized for quickly clearing Naguiat, a classmate of President Aquino.
Several lawmakers on Monday came to the defense of Naguiat. They said there was nothing wrong with the free hotel accommodations that Naguiat got from Okada.
Like Malacañang, they called the hotel accommodations "standard industry practice."
In a hearing conducted by the House committee on games and amusement, several lawmakers filed a motion to ban Steve Wynn from conducting business in the gaming and entertainment industries in the Philippines.
They said Wynn is embarrassing and insulting Filipinos by claiming that corruption is rampant in the country.
"Sinira niya ang reputasyon ng ating bansa dahil may motibo siya na ma-apektuhan ang Wynn Resorts niya sa Macau," said Samar Rep. Ben Evardone.
Evardone said there was malice in Wynn's report.
He believes Wynn used the Philippines to oust Okada from the gaming firm.
Okada says sorry
In the hearing, Okada sent a representative who read the businessman's apology for the bribery controversy.
PAGCOR is expected to come out with its own official explanation to Malacañang on the matter.
PAGCOR, in a press statement Monday, quoted House committee chairman for games and amusement Amado Bagatsing as saying that said Wynn is using the US Corrupt Practices Act to prevent Okada from into investing in the Philippines.
"Wynn is just using the $110,000 issue to block off Okada's project in the Philippines because it poses adverse effect on Wynn's gaming operations in Macau," he said.
Bagatsing also said the Philippines, as tourism and business destination, has a lot more to offer apart from gaming.
"What else is there to do in Macau and Singapore? In the Philippines, there are inexpensive shopping and travel destinations and historical sites. Obviously, they (Wynn's group) do not want us to take off," he said.
"I studied the gaming industry of Las Vegas, Singapore and Australia. When Sydney developed Darling Harbour, people from neighboring cities started to come and tourism became bullish," he said.
"Competition in the gaming and tourism industry is keen. Our country's reputation has been besmirched in this commercial espionage. It's about time that we put our acts together," he added. - report from Jing Castañeda, ABS-CBN News