Hot Breaking News for Filipinos

Roy C. Mabasa: The “LOLOyer” and the “APO”


By Roy C. Mabasa

TIME: Evening of July 18, 2016, less than a month after the formal inauguration of the new Commander-in-Chief of the Philippine Republic. Place: Malacanan Palace.

A number of guests eagerly wait their turn to personally meet and congratulate President Rodrigo Duterte. Unfortunately, they have to warm their chairs countless hours more before they are accommodated because inside the President’s office at that time was Japanese gaming magnate Kazuo Okada.

The uncharacteristically long courtesy call of Okada even prompted one of the waiting visitors, a distinguished member of the academe, to leave.

Now, the red carpet welcome of the Japanese billionaire in Malacanang was reportedly facilitated by a heavyweight government official who now stands as “Ninong” (Read “Protector”) to Okada’s biggest project Okada Manila, a 44-hectare integrated hotel and resort in Manila’s Entertainment City developed through Universal Entertainment’s Tiger Resort, Leisure and Entertainment, Inc. (TRLEI).

According to a well-placed source, the meeting between Okada and President Duterte that night was “cordial” and “mutually beneficial” as the latter reportedly assured the Japanese tycoon that everything will be okay in doing business in the Philippines as long as the proper taxes are paid and Filipino workers are treated fairly.

But what made the engagement interesting, according to this same source, was Duterte’s mien as he was very much focused on the “very attractive” lady interpreter instead of his VIP guest.

In fact, at one point during the meeting, the President directly engaged the lady in a conversation.

But then again, this is not at all that surprising because who the hell does not know Duterte’s penchant for very attractive and sexually alluring women.

So let us go back to Okada.

Fast forward to a year after his meeting with Duterte, or just two and a half months ago to be exact, Okada has been removed as board chairman of TRLEI. The move was prompted “as a consequence of the recent actions at Universal Entertainment Corporation (UEC),” which the resort casino belongs to.

An internal investigation supposedly uncovered $2 million in improper transfers of company funds by Okada, a disclosure that followed an earlier claim of an improper $17 million loan that allegedly benefited the billionaire.

We note here that UEC, the company that Okada helped establish, is a manufacturer of pachinko machines with a global reach.

By the way, pachinko and gambling in Japan is tinged with taboo because of its associations to the Japanese mafia Yakuza.

We are not saying that Okada is a member of the dreaded Yakuza but another of my unimpeachable sources informed me that one of the legal counsels reportedly representing the Pachinko King prior to his ouster from TRLEI was the same lawyer who handled cases involving members of the Japanese mafia in the Philippines. Maybe a coincidence…or maybe not.

What’s frightening is, if this is indeed true, that this “loloyer”was able to gain a foothold in the Palace through the same “heavyweight” connection of Okada, the same “ninong” who facilitated the meeting with Duterte.

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THE desolate effort to involve in litigation those behind the highly questionable multi-billion passport contract between the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the APO Printing Unit pushes on.

Kudos to Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo for persisting in his earlier pronouncement that APO-PU could still be held liable for violating, among others, Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act “for subcontracting the printing of passports” to United Graphic Expression Corporation, a private company that lists itself as a “full service printing and packaging company.”

In the sidelines of the recent visit of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Panelo told me that so far, APO-PU has yet to present to him a single documentary evidence to prove it did not breach the provisions of its agreement with the DFA. The said contract apparently disallows any subcontracting of the production and printing of passports.

Records would show that it was former Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. who uncovered this questionable transaction from Day One of the Duterte administration. Yasay also made sure that the President himself is aware of his discovery.

Since then, Yasay did not lay his eyes off the 10-year contract which would rake UGEC billions of pesos in income equivalent to 90 percent in shares while a measly 10 percent reserved for APO.

During his short-lived term. Ysay further raised issues about the actual production of Philippine passports. As it turns out, a single passport is overpriced by as much as P500. Holy milking cow!

At one point, the former foreign affairs chief sought to lower the price of passport but nobody in the department and APO heeded his order.

For Panelo, though, there is a little bit of sad news: a strong resistance to halt the investigation and eventual prosecution of those behind the questionable deal is emanating from unseen forces.

Currently. there is a power-play going on among top government officials about the outcome of the issue considering it involves billions of pesos here. The amount of money is enough to fuel the higher aspirations of a certain government official in 2022 while those who have no political ambitions could enjoy their retirement.

On a related matter, should I applaud the passage of the law that extends the validity of passport to 10 years? I do not want to rejoice too quickly because we still have to see the relevant implementing rules and regulations.

As they say, the devil is in the details. So as long as the “devil” is raking billions of pesos out of the pockets of unsuspecting Filipino migrant workers and the public in general, let us just wait and see how this hastily passed law will impact our lives.

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“A pretty face means nothing if the person wearing it has an ugly attitude.”

The Supreme Court has yet to decide on the disbarment case filed by the University of the Philippines (UP) against the “trying hard to be charming” lawyer Mandy Anderson, the erstwhile chief of staff of Nicanor Faeldon at the Bureau of Customs.

The Cebu-born Anderson, who placed 5th in the 2015 Bar Examination, along with two other companeros, supposedly fabricated their participation to the Mandatory Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) seminar at the University of the Philippines Law Center in its Diliman campus last May.

MCLE seminar is a requisite for all lawyers in order to update them with the latest jurisprudence, procedures and other matters related to the legal profession.

Sources familiar to the incident said that instead of personally attending the seminar, Anderson et alia reportedly just dispatched their respective representatives. This was uncovered by one of the clerks tasked to keep an eye on the participants who questioned the identity of one person claiming to be Anderson.

For fear of losing their permit to host MCLE seminars, UP initiated the filing of a disbarment case against Anderson and the other lawyers. The honorable UP Law Center clerk will stand as one of the witnesses in the disbarment case.

Another fascinating issue is the apparent attempt by some Customs officials to bury the incident, specifically those who had direct knowledge and authority over the conduct of MCLE, for Faeldon and former Deputy Commissioner Natalio Ecarma.

A be-medaled Marine officer, Ecarma was supposedly the one who should have initiated sanctions against Anderson but has reportedly done nothing. He made this admission when asked during the Congressional hearing on the P6.4 billion shabu shipment.

Incidentally, this is the same Ecarma who was among those named by Sen. Panfilo Lacson as recipient of “tara” at the BOC.