Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II is urging Congress to investigate secret online gambling dens operating illegally in Fontana Leisure Park and Casino owned by gambling tycoon Jack Lam following an alleged bribery attempt from the latter's camp.
Speaking to radio DZMM, Aguirre said he had been receiving reports of online gambling dens operating without a permit inside the resort even during his time as general counsel of the government-owned Clark Development Corp. (CDC).
He said the online gambling operators rent villas inside Fontana to set up their illegal gambling dens.
"Some of these online gambling operators are just regular tourists. Some have working visas from [Cagayan Special Economic Zone Authority], some from Subic or Clark. Some of the operators have no visas or even passports, or have expired passports," he said.
The justice chief said that instead of applying for a license and paying the proper taxes, these gambling operators would rather operate above the law.
"The question here is - how did they get in? They have to be regulated by the Clark Development Corporation," he said.
"Kailangan dito ng malalim na imbestigasyon, that is why I am calling for a congressional investigation para masisid kung gaano kalalim yan...Gusto nila libre sila, walang binabayaran e bilyon bilyon ang pumapasok sa kanila."
(We need a deeper investigation, that is why I am calling for a congressional investigation to see how deep it goes...They want to operate freely without paying anything when they are raking in billions.)
WHO IS JACK LAM?
Meanwhile, Aguirre reiterated the justice department cannot file charges against gaming tycoon Jack Lam and retired general Wally Sombero, Jr over alleged bribery.
The justice secretary earlier claimed the Macau-based Lam tried to pay off Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. chair Andrea Domingo and Immigration officials with millions of pesos for the release of over 1,000 allegedly undocumented Chinese workers who were working in an illegal online casino in Pampanga.
The detentions marked the government's biggest such round-up of Chinese nationals in the country.
Aguirre said he met with Lam and Sombero last Saturday where the tycoon asked if the Chinese workers could be freed since they will apply for a Pagcor license. "In other words, habang nag a-apply sila, pakawalan muna. Sabi ko hindi tama siguro. Mabuti mag apply muna kayo at mag-usap tayo kapag kayo ay may lisensiya na," he recalled.
Sombero then asked him if he was willing to be the "ninong" of Lam, who is the owner of Fort Ilocandia and Resort Casino in Laoag, and the Fontana Leisure Park in Pampanga, and considered a major junket operator.
"Alam mo, Secretary, si Jack Lam - siya ang pinakamalaking online gamer dito sa Pilipinas. Siya ang isa sa pinakamalaki din sa online sa junket diyan sa Macau. He owns Fontana Resort, Fort Ilocandia, Palace of the North. Marami siyang online games sa Laoag. Matagal nang walang nag-aalaga sa kanya, parang walang ninong. Baka naman pwede as secretary of justice ikaw na mag-alaga sa kanya," he recalled Sombero as saying.
"Ang dating sa akin niyan ay susuhulan ako," he said.
Aguirre, however, said Sombero's remark could be interpreted in many different ways since no monetary amount was mentioned.
"Kung sinabi niya sa akin, 'Secretary, may 200 ka dito.' Halimbawa, 'Secretary, bibigyan kita ng 50 milyon buwan buwan' - yan po ang overt act pero yung kinwento ko sa inyo - it could be interpreted in as many ways as you can. Sombero can deny it," he said.
Aguirre has clarified that Lam is not the employer of the arrested Chinese nationals since the operator of the illegal online gaming operations is only renting a portion of his Fontana property.
Asked if it is possible that the employer may just be a dummy of Lam, Aguirre answered in the affirmative, but stressed that he has no basis to conclusively say so.
He also ordered an investigation into the reported "escape" of some 70 of the arrested Chinese nationals under immigration custody, and believes some immigration personnel were in cahoots with the "escapees." He suspects a syndicate was behind the "escape."
To date, only 26 of the escapees remain unaccounted for.