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SOURCE: Press and Public Affairs Bureau

House panel tackles proposed creation of Philippine Amusement and Gaming Authority
27 November 2017 09:43:12 PM

The House committee on games and amusements chaired by Rep. Gus Tambunting (2nd District, Paranaque City) on Monday elicited the views of various gaming and amusement entities on the proposal to rationalize and consolidate government regulations relating to all games of chance.

During the hearing, the committee continued its deliberation on House Bill 6111 authored by Reps. Enrico Pineda and Michael Romero (Party-list, 1-Pacman) and conducted the initial deliberation on House Bill 6514 authored by Speaker Pantaleon Alvares and Senior Deputy Majority Leader Juan Pablo Bondoc. Both bills seek to create the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Authority (PAGA).

The PAGA, a corporate body to be under the Office of the President, shall regulate and consolidate all regulatory functions relating to games of chance in the country.

Tambunting said PAGA shall be the regulatory in nature and shall not be an operator of games of chance.

In the process, Tambunting said the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) shall be purely a regulator of games of chance and shall no longer operate casinos.

In addition, Tambunting said all functions relating to gaming and amusements of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO), Games and Amusement Board (GAB), Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CESA), Aurora Pacific Economic Zone and Freeport Authority (APECO), and Authority of Freeport Area of Bataan (AFAB) shall be transferred to the PAGA.

Both bills provide for the GAB abolition, repealing for the purpose Sections 6 and 7 of Executive Order No. 392, Series of 1950. All gaming operations shall secure their legislative franchise from Congress before they can operate gaming activities.

All gaming operations, which were given license pursuant to Presidential Decree 1869, as amended, Republic Act 7922, Republic Act 9490, Republic Act 9728, Presidential Decree 420, Republic Act 1169, Republic Act 1168 and other such laws that allowed licensing of gaming operations and without the legislative franchise, shall be given a period of one year from the effectivity of the Act to secure a legislative franchise, otherwise their continued operations shall be considered illegal.

During the hearing, Bondoc debunked the position paper of the PAGCOR which stated that the issuance of a legislative franchise by Congress for gaming is not necessary. The position paper was titled “The opinion of PAGCOR for RA 9587, “An Act further amending PD 1869, otherwise known as “The PAGCOR Chapter” enacted by Senate and House of Representatives.”

Bondoc said under Section 1 of the PAGCOR Charter, the PAGCOR franchise under PD 1869 which granted the gaming firm a franchise to operate for another 25 years and renewable for another 25 years, the rights, privileges and authority to operate license gaming casinos, gaming club and other similar recreations and amusement places gaming pools.

“It is very clear, PAGCOR exists because we extended its franchise. So, the franchise for gaming enjoyed by PAGCOR emanates from an act of Congress. So Congress grants the franchise to PAGCOR. So your position paper is wrong in stating that Congress cannot grant franchises for gaming. In fact, you exist because we granted you this franchise. It did not cause separation of powers of issues,” said Bondoc.

GAB chairman Abraham Kahlil Mitra said the GAB is a regulatory body which is in charge of looking after the welfare of professional athletes. “Somehow, somewhere, in the past, cockfighting was included. But in 1991, during the discussion on the local government code, it was devolved to the LGUs,” he said.

However, Mitra said what was left to the GAB regarding cockfighting is the oversight on international derbies and this only happens four times a year.

Tambunting asked Mitra’s view if GAB should be placed under the PAGA or GAB is against the bill.

“I don’t think that GAB should be included. I do not disagree with the wisdom of the leadership of the House, but as chairman of GAB, we would like to politely decline,” said Mitra.

“GAB is more of games of skill. Lakas ang ginagamit dito. Training, skill and effort, wala pong sugal,” Mitra said.

CEZA Chief Executive Officee Atty. Raul Lambino said the plenary powers of Congress regarding issuances of franchise cannot be denied. “This is an inherent power of Congress.” said Lambino.

“Congress delegated some of its powers to agencies it has created that it deemed to be in possession of expertise which Congress may not have at the moment. But of course, anytime these powers that are delegated by Congress, which includes the granting of franchise to PAGCOR and other economic zones, can be taken back. There is no issue about that, your honors. We subscribe to that and we accept this reality,” said Lambino.

“In the case of CEZA, Congress granted us the authority under RA 7922 and we submit your honor, that you can take away this power to us anytime that you would want to,” said Lambino.

He said their concern is that when Congress creates the PAGA, this will be primarily removing from PAGCOR its power to operate casinos and giving it (PAGCOR) the power to regulate gaming operations and casinos. “Also, Congress will take away from the economic zones that power and give it to PAGA. That is where we have some objections,” he said. / EAG