• EO 13 did not cure PAGCOR’s lack of mandate to operate online gambling; prostituted service of court processes

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    AL S. VITANGCOL III

    PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte issued Executive Order 13 (EO 13) on February 2, 2017, which aims to strengthen the fight against illegal gambling, and clarify the jurisdiction and authority of various concerned agencies in regulating gambling and other online gaming facilities.

    According to EO 13, the government will “ensure that gambling regulators act within the bounds of their respective mandates.” However, a careful reading of the text of the executive order reveals that it cannot cure the perceived defects of the regulators’ mandate, particularly that pertaining to online gambling.

    When is gambling illegal?

    Section 2 of EO 13 defines illegal gambling as “when such game scheme is not authorized or licensed by the government agency duly empowered by law or its charter to license or authorize the conduct of such games.”
    What if the game scheme was authorized or licensed by a government agency, but that government agency is not empowered by law or its charter to grant such license? My insight tells me that such game scheme should still be considered illegal at best.

    Clarification on online gambling is unclear

    I am reproducing here en toto the text of Section 3 of EO 13:

    “SECTION 3. Clarification on Online Gambling. No duly licensed online gambling operator, or provider of activities and services related to or in support of online gambling activities, shall directly or indirectly allow persons who are physically located outside the territorial jurisdiction of the licensing authority to place bets, or any way participate, in the games conducted by such operator, whether through an online portal or similar means. Nothing herein, however, shall prohibit the duly licensed online gambling operator from allowing the participation of persons physically located outside Philippine territory.”

    In the first sentence, the EO says the operator must be licensed and that it should not allow anyone, who is outside of the territorial jurisdiction of the licensing authority, to participate in the games. So, it is clear. If anyone is outside of the territorial jurisdiction, which includes those outside of the Philippine territory, then they are not allowed to participate.

    In the second sentence, the operator is licensed, and it shall not prohibit anyone located outside of the Philippine territory to participate in the games.

    Let us relate this to the final paragraph of Section 2:

    “All gambling activities, and activities and services directly or indirectly related to or in support of such gambling activities, conducted beyond the territorial jurisdiction of the government authority which issued the license therefore, shall be dealt with as illegal gambling.”

    There you are. Anything, whether it is placing of bets, participation, or “support services,” outside of the territorial jurisdiction of the licensing authority is deemed as illegal gambling.

    “Support services” can include operation of the game servers, maintenance of online communications facilities, cloud data storage and the like. All or any of these can be implemented outside of the territorial jurisdiction of the Philippines. Thus, this is technically illegal gambling.

    Online gambling is not within PAGCOR’s mandate

    In my previous column, “Probing the relationship between online gambling and corruption of public officials” (December 17, 2016), I discussed the mandate of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR) and opined that online gambling is illegal.

    The third paragraph of Section 10 of PAGCOR’s amended charter delineates its power and authority. In there, it is very clear that the operation and licensing of casinos and similar places shall be “within the territorial jurisdiction of the Republic of the Philippines.”

    RA7922 did not include Internet gambling when it amended Section 10 of PD1869. Likewise, with the very nature of the Internet, players and gamblers, and even the game servers, might be located outside the territorial jurisdiction of the Philippines.

    Reader reacts to this column

    In last week’s column, “Mining revenues should redound to the benefit of the Filipinos,” I suggested the establishment of a Responsible Mining Fund. If my computation is correct, within the time period stated, this could have amounted to someP75 billion by now.

    Well, a reader reacted and sent me a link to the website of the Supreme Court of the Philippines. It was a 1975 decided case under G.R. No. 38850, titled “In the matter of the petition for habeas corpus of Regina Paz Lopez et. el. vs.Fr. Bob Garon M.S. et. al.

    You guessed it right. That Regina Paz Lopez is the current environment secretary.

    It appears from the case decision that Conchita Lopez, the mother of Regina Paz Lopez, voluntarily submitted to the court the latter for treatment and rehabilitation for drug dependency. Relevant portions of the decision are as follows _

    “On October 7, 1974, the following manifestation was filed by respondent Judge Villaluz: “x xx 2. That Regina Paz Lopez was voluntarily submitted by her mother to the Court for treatment and rehabilitation for drug dependency on July 4, 1974, and was committed to the Dare Foundation, Inc., a duly accredited rehabilitation center, on the same date; 3. That this Court, under date of September 13, 1974, issued an order directing x xx of the U.E.R.M. Memorial Hospital, expert psychiatrists duly qualified by this Court, to conduct a thorough physical examination on the person of Regina Paz Lopez for the purpose of determining whether she is still a drug dependent or not and/or she is suffering from personality disorder or not; and for said purpose, she was temporarily released to the custody of her parents; 4. That said Regina Paz Lopez, probably sensing that she would be examined by said doctors, escaped from the Dare Foundation, Inc., and has not returned thereat up to the present; 5. That due to the disappearance of said drug dependent from her confinement on September 23, 1974, this Court finds it impossible to proceed with the hearing of the above-entitled case as the subpoenas issued by the Court could not be served as her present whereabouts is still unknown x xx.”

    The Supreme Court observed: “In the meanwhile, petitioner Regina Paz Lopez had attained the age of majority.

    The proceeding against her in the sala of respondent judge was based on the provisions of the law with respect to minors; thus, the legal basis for further continuation thereof had ceased to exist. Under the above circumstances, the petition would not serve any useful purpose.”

    Someone insinuated that Lopez might have been under the influence of drug when she cancelled the 75 mining contracts this week. I responded to this reader that I could not ascertain such thing because I am not privy to her habits.

    Probably, somebody should conduct a thorough check on this.

    Prostituted service of court processes

    It has been brought to my attention that in one of the cases lodged before a division of the Sandiganbayan, the process server of that division had allegedly prostituted the service of court processes to an accused – to the point of harassment.

    In the course of my law practice, I have been receiving notices, orders, resolutions, and other processes from various courts. All of these documents have the same denominator–they are sealed to protect the privacy of the accused and the confidentiality of the proceedings. If these court documents are not in a sealed envelope, then they are folded and stapled so that they would not be exposed in plain view of the recipient.

    After all, any accused enjoys the presumption of innocence until proven guilty (beyond reasonable doubt) by a court of law.

    Well, this process server deliberately serves notices and processes in the accused person’s residence in violation of the above practice. He serves it in a crisp unfolded paper exposed to anyone’s view. Much more, he routinely serves it to the house helper who does not even have a full grasp of the English language. Lately, he served a notice and resolution at both the accused person’s residence and business address, in spite of the accused having a counsel on record.

    Clearly, this process server is guilty of gross negligence. By definition, gross negligence refers to negligence characterized by the want of even slight care, acting or omitting to act in a situation where there is a duty to act, not inadvertently but willfully and intentionally with a conscious indifference to consequences in so far as other persons may be affected. It is the omission of that care which even inattentive and thoughtless men never fail to take on their own property.

    Obviously, he acted intentionally and willfully with a conscious indifference to the consequences in so far as the accused may be affected. In fact, the accused’ child, of tender age, but who is very skilled in reading English, was emotionally affected upon reading the contents of the open, unsealed, and unstapled resolution maliciously served by the process server.

    My insight tells me that this is prostitution of service of court processes–aimed at nothing but harassing and publicly shaming the accused.

    After all, any act, which falls short of the exacting standards for public office, especially on the part of those expected to preserve the image of the judiciary, should not be countenanced.

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