Porac mayor says extension office near Lucky South 99 POGO ‘never used’

Joann Manabat

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Porac mayor says extension office near Lucky South 99 POGO ‘never used’

DILAPIDATED. The old structure inside the Royal Garden Estate was offered to Porac mayor Jaime Capil as an extension office of the Porac municipal hall. It is located near the raided Lucky South 99.

Joann Manabat/Rappler

This issue is part of an ongoing inquiry into the liabilities of local government units in the proliferation of POGOs within their localities

PAMPANGA, Philippines – The local government of Porac, Pampanga, had an extension office in the same subdivision as the raided Philippine Offshore Gaming Operator (POGO) Lucky South 99, but Mayor Jaime Capil said it was never used.

“The Porac LGU [Local Government Unit] did not use the said building. We are awaiting the completion of the new municipal hall. We don’t really need an extension office because we have a new one. Malapit neng mayari (it is almost finished),” Capil told Rappler on July 4, Thursday.

This latest issue is part of an ongoing inquiry into the liabilities of local government units (LGU) in the proliferation of POGOs within their localities. Capil was grilled in the last investigation at the Senate about why he was not able to crack down on the POGO, given that there had already been an attempted inspection.

Capil told senators he did not want to be liable for trespassing, and was held back by the lack of a search warrant. Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, a former mayor of Valenzuela, scolded Capil, saying a mayor could have invoked more regulatory powers if he only had political will.

It turns out now that the local government of Porac had an extension office inside the 150-hectare Royal Garden estate, the same compound where the Thai Royal Court is or the building that housed the Lucky South 99 POGO, described as the deadliest POGO by the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC).

The extension office is around a kilometer away from Lucky South 99.

Capil admitted there was a plan to operate an extension office, but he said he never used it. It was also not maintained, the mayor said.

“The local government unit had planned to operate an extension office in that eastern part of Porac town so residents of barangays Sta. Cruz and Manibaug will no longer have to go all the way to the municipal hall in Barangay Poblacion,” Capil said.

The extension office also had the sign board of the local government. But a report in the Philippine Daily Inquirer says the sign board was promptly taken down after PAOCC searched the POGO hub on June 4.

An associate of Capil confirmed with Rappler on Friday that the sign board was installed by the Porac engineering department in 2023. 

The mayor said the abandoned structure was donated by the landowner, Ruperto Cruz, also in 2023. Cruz originally owned the land where the estate is, and is currently embroiled in a land dispute with Whirlwind Corporation, the real estate company that leased land to the POGO hub.

Former presidential spokesperson Harry Roque is Whirlwind’s lawyer in that dispute. A document shows Roque as legal representative of Lucky South 99 itself, but the lawyer earlier maintained to Rappler that he is only representing Whirlwind and has “no idea” why his name appeared on the document.

Another source also told Rappler that Ruperto’s children opposed the plan to donate the structure to the local government.

Capil said there is an ongoing construction of a new municipal hall in Barangay Cangatba, which started in 2022. It is set to be completed in 2025.

The new municipal hall project was initiated by Senator Lito Lapid, a resident of Porac. Lapid is also the chairperson of the Senate committee on games and amusement. – Rappler.com

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