WATCH: Pagcor says Harry Roque is listed as legal head of raided POGO

WATCH: Pagcor says Harry Roque is listed as legal head of raided POGO
(2nd UPDATE) Harry Roque says his inclusion as 'legal head' in Lucky South 99's organizational chart was done without his consent and knowledge

MANILA, Philippines – Former presidential spokesperson Harry Roque is listed as the “legal head” of recently-raided Philippine offshore gaming operator (POGO) Lucky South 99, Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) Chairman Alejandro Tengco told a Senate panel on Wednesday, July 10.

WATCH: Pagcor says Harry Roque is listed as legal head of raided POGO

Tengco also told the fourth hearing of the Senate committee on women, children, family relations, and gender equality on illegal POGOs that Roque sought an appointment with him in July 2023. When they met on July 26, 2023 in his Pagcor office, he brought with him Lucky South 99’s Katherine Cassandra Ong.

Pagcor Assistant Vice President for Offshore Gaming License Department Jessa Mariz Fernandez was also at the July 26, 2023 meeting with Roque and Ong.

Tengco said Ong was having problems in relation to Lucky South 99’s arrears with Pagcor totaling $500,000, as she had entrusted their Pagcor payments to Dennis Cunanan, their authorized representative, who did not allegedly remit to Pagcor. She asked to be allowed to pay in installment. He said Roque had told him that he was there to help Ong as she was the “aggrieved party.”

After Lucky South 99 applied for a new license under Pagcor’s new guidelines in September 2023, Roque followed up with Fernandez to check on the status of the application several times, including on what other documents needed to be submitted to comply with the requirements.

Responding to Hontiveros, Tengco confirmed the inclusion of Roque in the organizational chart of Lucky South 99 in the document attached to its reapplication for a license. “Lumabas na po sa bagong application ng 2023, na siya na po ang legal head sa organizational chart na sinubmit na reapplication ng nasabing kompanya,” he said.

(In the new application in 2023, he is already listed as the legal head in the organizational chart that the company submitted in its reapplication.)

Fernandez said Lucky South 99 was informed about the Pagcor decision to reject their reapplication for a license on May 14, 2024.

The Pagcor officials clarified that Roque did not exert any pressure on them in relation to Lucky South 99 and did not make any follow-up calls after the license was rejected.

Ong was among those subpoenaed by the Senate panel that day to attend the hearings.

Roque: I did not help prepare POGO’s organizational chart

Roque earlier claimed that he had no direct links to Lucky South 99 after Rappler obtained the document showing him as the “legal head” in the organizational chart of the POGO. The Rappler report bearing the document was cited in the Wednesday hearing.

Roque reiterated his position on Wednesday, in a statement after the hearing. “I am not and have never been a legal counsel to any illegal POGO. Neither was I counsel to Lucky South 99, incorporated. Neither did I participate in preparing Lucky South’s organizational chart, which identified me as their legal counsel.”

“I clarify that I did not consent to nor was I informed of my name’s inclusion in any submission by Lucky South with the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) concerning license renewal,” he added.

Roque said that if Hontiveros’ “only basis is the organizational chart naming me as legal counsel of Lucky South 99, then I challenge her to prove that I had a direct hand in preparing the said document. No such evidence exists.”

Roque also said that he accompanied Ong to the July 26, 2023 meeting with Pagcor officials believing that Lucky South 99, the principal of Whirlwind Corporation, was a “victim of estafa.” At the time, he said, his client was a service provider to Lucky South which still had a valid Pagcor license then.

“By way of accommodation, I joined Ms. Ong since I was then persuading Whirlwind to invest in two energy projects of which I was the primary proponent,” he said.

Roque said that it was not until September 2023 when he confirmed that Ong was Whirlwind’s corporate secretary, after his firm was formally retained to represent the company in an ejectment case and Ong signed the pleadings in that case in such capacity. He added that Whirlwind recently retained his firm “to quash a search warrant in a residential dwelling in Porac mistakenly described as a ‘resort’ by police authorities.” LOOK: Police inspect mansions, villas allegedly owned by Porac POGO ‘big bosses’)

“I have no reason to deny my legal engagement with Lucky South if there is truth to it. Providing legal representation is why the legal profession exists.  But the reality is that an attorney-client relationship is of the highest fiduciary relationship and cannot be presumed unless there is a clear retainer between counsel and client,” he said.

“As a lawyer, I could not directly engage with the POGO because of a potential conflict of interest and given the soured lease contract between Whirlwind and Lucky South,” Roque added.

On June 29, Pagcor sent out a press release titled, “Pagcor says ex-Cabinet official trying to intercede for POGOs” which was picked up by the media.

“The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation today said a former high ranking government official tried to facilitate the grant of gaming licenses to some of the illegal POGOs that have been recently raided and found engaged in illegal,” the Pagcor press statement read.

“The PAGCOR chief said he will reveal in the proper forum the identity of the former Cabinet member who had been lobbying for the illegal POGOs, as well as the circumstances that led to the proliferation of illegal and criminal offshore gaming operations,” the June 29 statement added, leading to expectations that he would identify the former Cabinet secretary at the July 10 Senate hearing. – Rappler.com

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