Court raps Pagcor for meddling in Okada case


THE Court of Appeals (CA) admonished the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) and Tiger Resort Asia Ltd. (TRAL) for interfering in the Okada Manila casino resort case.

In a resolution it promulgated last September 7, the court ordered Pagcor and TRAL, which owns 99.9 percent of Tiger Resort Leisure and Entertainment, Inc. (TRLEI), which runs Okada Manila, to “cease and desist from performing any and all acts that interfere with, impede and obstruct the proceedings.”

The Supreme Court had remanded to the CA the task of receiving additional evidence from the parties involved to back their arguments related to the status quo ante order (SQAO) it issued last April 27.

“Pursuant to the directives of the SC and in order to submit our report within the thirty-day period it gave us, we have been conducting continuous hearings for the reception of evidence since August 22, 2022,” the appellate court said in its resolution.

That did not stop the Pagcor board of directors from issuing a cease and desist order dated September 2, citing the opinion from the Department of Justice confirming the gaming regulator's authority to act on TRAL's appeal.

Pagcor directed the board constituted by Kazuo Okada to stop the management of casino operations.

The Kazuo board, led by Filipino businessman Antonio “Tonyboy” Cojuangco and Dindo Espeleta, was also ordered to stop further disbursing Okada Manila's funds “unless they are able to present a valid authority” in accordance with the SQAO.

Pagcor also allowed TRAL nominees and representatives to take over the operation and management of TRLEI.

The CA said the continued implementation of the Pagcor order “undoubtedly obstructs” the court from performing its mandate to determine factual matters relevant to the case.

“The actions of the Pagcor Board of Directors … muddles the issues as it precipitates a change in the composition of the Board of Directors of TRLEI, a factual matter which was specifically mentioned in the SC Resolution,” the appeals court noted.

It said it was already “painstakingly clearing up the facts related to the aforestated issues,” when Pagcor “came into the picture” and issued the order.

The court said it has received almost 6,000 pages of documentary evidence from the parties and has been conducting daily hearings as part of fulfilling its mandate from the Supreme Court.

“The actions initiated by TRAL and Pagcor have far-reaching effects on the efficiency of our proceedings as, in fact, we had to halt the process of receiving evidence in order to hear this incident,” it said.

In issuing its cease and desist order against Pagcor and TRAL, the CA warned it will not “sit idly by when persons are interfering” with its work that could possibly “lead to anarchic results, rendering the proceedings nugatory.”

“We find it necessary to exercise our inherent powers to ensure that our work is not impeded. Respect for the court would be better enhanced if parties and non-parties regard its tradition and rules,” the court said.

Kazuo Okada's lawyers claim that the TRAL board “acted with impunity, in utter bad faith and with brazen disregard” of the proceedings before the CA and the Supreme Court, “setting a very dangerous precedent in which an administrative agency, such as Pagcor may intervene and interpret pending issues without any imprimatur from the Courts.”

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