MANILA - The spokesperson of the Department of Justice (DOJ) on Thursday dismissed as “totally unfounded” allegations of conflict of interest against Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra over the indictment of Japanese billionaire Kazuo Okada because of his son’s employment with the firm that sued the gaming tycoon.
“This speculation is totally unfounded,” DOJ Spokesperson Usec. Markk Perete said in a statement released to the media.
A panel of prosecutors on December 7 indicted Okada for 3 counts of estafa over his receipt of $3.1 million in alleged unauthorized compensation as consultant and chief executive officer of Tiger Resort, Leisure and Entertainment Inc from November 2016 to May 2017.
Guevarra’s eldest son works as associate director for risk management for Tiger Resort, the operator of casino-hotel resort complex Okada Manila.
Following news of the indictment, a mass email claiming that the justice secretary is in “hot water” because of alleged conflict of interest was sent to news organizations on Thursday afternoon by a certain “Naruto-San.”
The email said Guevarra’s son, identified as “Menardo Guevarra, Jr.,” was hired by Tiger Resort as its risk management officer to handle corporate issues including legal conflicts and media management on July 2, 2018, 3 months after Guevarra took over as justice secretary.
The email also claimed the younger Guevarra was hired after Tiger Resort filed a petition for review with the DOJ in June 2018 to question the Parañaque City Prosecutor’s Office’s dismissal of the estafa cases against Okada.
It also accused Guevarra of showing particular interest to the dismissed case, and of ordering the National Bureau of Investigation to probe the alleged premature release of resolutions absolving Okada.
Guevarra confirmed that his eldest son works for Tiger Resort but said he is not named “Menardo, Jr.”
In a separate statement, Perete defended the justice secretary saying the National Prosecution Service, whose prosecutor decided the Okada indictment, is independent from the Office of the Justice Secretary.
“Its resolution in the Okada case was arrived at by the prosecutor handling the case without the intervention or influence of the Secretary,” he said.
Perete also said Guevarra immediately informed the counsels of both Okada and Tiger Resort in a meeting on June 27, 2018 that his son was being engaged by Tiger Resorts. He added that Guevarra told both parties that his son applied for a managerial position with Tiger Resorts as early as November 2017 and was offered an associate director position in December 2017.
“The Secretary likewise assured the counsel for both parties that the engagement of his son by Tiger Resorts would have no bearing in the resolution of the cases, and that these cases will be resolved with utmost impartiality,” Perete said.
The DOJ spokesperson reiterated Guevarra’s assurance in the face of allegation of conflict of interest.
“The Secretary stresses that his son knew absolutely nothing about the case involving Tiger Resorts and Mr. Okada. Neither have father and son discussed these cases in any way,” he said.
Considering that Okada’s indictment may be appealed to Guevarra’s office, Perete said Guevarra has requested his son to consider resigning from Tiger Resorts “to remove any doubt on, and dispel speculations against, his ability to resolve the case with utmost objectivity and impartiality.”
Perete added that should Guevarra’s son find no reason to resign, the justice secretary himself will “completely inhibit” from the case and may also consider tendering his resignation as Secretary of Justice.