• QC councilors defy ‘no gambling zone’

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    CONTRARY to an expressed policy against the proliferation of gambling in the city—legal or not—the Quezon City council had issued a “perpetual” and “special” permit to internet casino operators way back in 2005, it was learned.

    During yesterday’s public hearing by the council’s Ways and Means Committee headed by First District Councilor Victor ”Jun” Ferrer over the operations of E-Games, a popular net-based gambling, it was discovered that its owners were granted a blanket right to run their business.

    Present during were Councilor Godie Liban of District 5 (Novaliches); Franz Pumaren, a returning councilor of District 3; Toto Medalla, also a returning councilor of Dist. 2 and now the vice chairman of Games and Amusement Committee; Pinggoy Lagumbay, another returning councilor of Dist. 3 who is now the minority floor leader along with Ferrer.

    It can be recalled that then Mayor Feliciano Belmonte, now the House Speaker, had declared that the city is a “no gambling” zone. This policy is still being observed by his successor, Herbert Bautista.

    However, the so-called “special permits” that the city council has devised paved the way for operators of E-Games to venture into other gambling operations such as Off Track Betting (OTB) in horse racing, which is also classified as an adult amusement and gambling.

    Surprisingly, present during the hearing was Belmonte’s former Business Permit and Licensing Office (BPLO) chief Pacifico “Pax” Maghacot, who himself allegedly owns three of the on-line gambling outlets out of the 32 existing E-Games scattered in the city.

    “I was there as the spokesman for the group. I’m not one of the operators,” Maghacot told The Manila Times after the hearing.

    Maghacot clarified during the hearing that by “perpetual,” it means that the permits of E-Games operators have no termination period.

    Favored
    But some E-Games operators have complained that unlike the favored applicants who were granted such “perpetuity,” many of them were only allowed to run their business up to five years.

    “Nakakagulat naman ata na ang ibang operators ng E-games enjoys a perpetual special permit. Mga anak ba sila ng diyos? [Are they the children of God?],” Lagumbay asked.

    Pumaren, for his part, said “this will be an open ended issue” and proposed that they should work to find a common ground on the operations of E-Games, which is being regulated by Philweb and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor).

    “[We must] find a win-win solution for everybody,” he added.

    The hearing was a result of Ferrer’s privilege speech last week that some E-Games operators seemed to have influential backers for not renewing their “special permit” with the new council.

    Maghacot, one of the most powerful officials during the time of Belmonte, surprised everyone when he declared himself as the spokesman for the group of gambling operators.

    Sources said “perpetual” permits cost around P100,000 to a million.

    Jing Villamente

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