JPE a smuggling, gambling, logging king?

Posted at Dec 04 2013 09:01 PM | Updated as of Dec 05 2013 05:13 AM

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MANILA - Is Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile involved in smuggling, illegal gambling and illegal logging?

Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago accused Enrile of these crimes during her privilege speech in the Senate.

Santiago said Enrile authored Republic Act No. 7922, creating the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority or CEZA, while he was still congressman of Cagayan.

Section 6 para (f) gives to CEZA the right “to operate . . . tourism-related activities, including games, amusements, recreational and sports facilities such as horse-racing, dog racing, gambling casinos, golf courses, and others, under priorities and standards set by CEZA.”

Santiago said the free port occupies 441,000 hectares, an area almost three times the size of Quezon City. She said Enrile claimed that the port would become the hub in Southeast Asia of interactive gaming, shipping, and ecotourism.

However, she noted that the Port Irene CEO is Enrile’s relative Jose Mari Ponce while Enrile's “representative” in the port is his son-in-law, James Kocher.

She said former US Ambassador Kristie Kenney described Kocher, who is American, as someone who "runs an auto import operation in the port, and is suspected of involvement in smuggling."

A US Embassy Cable leaked on Wikileaks said Enrile even presided at a Senate hearing "and indulged himself by repeatedly and fiercely shouting at representatives of the Joint Foreign Chambers of Commerce, because the foreign businessmen had complained about smuggling in Port Irene."

Santiago said CEZA continued importations of used cars in violation of Executive Order No. 156 issued by President Arroyo in 2002.

She also said CEZA operates online gaming outside the jurisdiction of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation.

"The Cagayan ecozone is the only ecozone in the country that is allowed by the Enrile law to host and issue online gambling licenses to offshore companies. Such foreigners are not required to live in our country, or to incorporate as Philippine company. They only need an interactive gaming licensee and to register as a CEZA enterprise," she said.

She said Jesus Disini, president of the Internet and Society Program of the U.P. college of law, has already warned that CEZA should exercise due diligence in giving out licenses, which may be exploited by unscrupulous entities.

She quoted Disini as saying that CEZA might unwittingly give these companies the legitimacy to operate legally.

ANC, December 4, 2013