Businessman Roberto V. Ongpin, who was tagged by President Rodrigo Duterte as an “oligarch” that he wanted to destroy, has cancelled the auction of his 53.76-percent stake in PhilWeb Corp., and instead donated the bulk of it to state-owned Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) in an effort to save the gaming technology company from closure.
In an August 17 letter to Pagcor Chairwoman Andrea Domingo, Ongpin said he has stopped the auction of his majority stake in PhilWeb, and has decided to donate 49 percent out of his 53.76 percent shareholdings in PhilWeb to Pagcor.
Ongpin initially decided to auction off his PhilWeb shares from August 10 to 17 in an attempt to secure a new Pagcor license for PhilWeb, and announce the highest bidder today.
“As of the deadline of 12 noon today (Wednesday), I have received five bids for my 53.76 percent stake (about 771 million shares) in PhilWeb. However, due to the reports in the media that under no circumstances will the PhilWeb license be renewed, I have decided that it is not appropriate, nor fair to the bidders, for me to award my shares to any of the bidders,” Ongpin said in the letter.
“I hereby donate to Pagcor … 49 percent of my PhilWeb shares.
“Why 49 percent? This is simply to avoid PhilWeb being classified as a government-owned and -controlled corporation (GOCC), which would make the various restrictions applicable to GOCC’s result in making PhilWeb’s operations untenable,” the former PhilWeb chairman said.
“The balance of 4.7 percent, I hereby donate to the Ateneo de Manila University JVO Scholarship Fund (named after my late brother but funded by me), which supports several hundred public elementary school graduates who could not otherwise afford to go to Ateneo,” he added.
Ongpin said this was an attempt to let Pagcor, as regulator and operator of several casinos in the Philippines, own a majority of PhilWeb to save the jobs and livelihood of 700 PhilWeb employees and 5,000 others employed by Pagcor to operate 286 “e-Games” outlets.
The anti-oligarch and anti-online gaming and gambling pronouncements of President Rodrigo Duterte prompted Ongpin to resign as PhilWeb chairman and sell his shares in the company.
“I wish to point out that this donation to Pagcor comes with no strings attached. Thus, Pagcor can decide whether to retain … [PhilWeb] as a permanent investment, or auction all or part of it off to the highest bidder (obviously with a renewed co-terminus license),” Ongpin said.
“I hope and pray that Pagcor will seriously consider the offer contained in this letter. My only objective and consolation is that if Pagcor agrees to accept this donation, I would have saved the jobs and livelihood of some 6,000 people, including PhilWeb employees, many of whom have worked diligently and loyally for me in PhilWeb over the past 16 years of PhilWeb’s existence,” he said.
“The infrastructure of PhilWeb, its proprietary technology, its nationwide network of e-Games remain intact but with no income, will surely disintegrate before the end of this month of August,” he added.
PhilWeb insists that it only provided the technology for Pagcor e-Games outlets, and that it was never in the business of online gambling.
Pagcor takes up 40.2 percent of the gaming revenues from e-Games operations, while 28 percent goes to the operators, two percent to marketers, and 29 percent to PhilWeb.