Manuel Lazaro Dead, Okada Manila Chair Was Close Advisor to Philippines President

Posted on: May 19, 2022, 11:09h. 

Last updated on: May 19, 2022, 12:08h.

The parent company of Okada Manila in the Philippines today announced the passing of its board chairman, Manuel “Lolong” Lazaro. He was 87. No cause of death was provided.

Okada Manila Manuel Lazaro Philippines casino
Okada Manila Chairman Manuel Lazaro is seen in his wheelchair during a 2019 event. Lazaro died this week at the age of 87. (Image: The Philippine Star)

Okada Manila is owned and operated by Tiger Resort, Leisure & Entertainment Inc. (TRLEI). The $2.4 billion integrated casino resort opened in Manila’s Entertainment City in late 2016.

Lazaro chaired the TRLEI board since his appointment to the role in 2017. He replaced Kazuo Okada after the billionaire was forced out of the organization amid scandal.

An attorney by trade, Lazaro is perhaps best known in the Philippines for being a close advisor to Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos Sr. during his more than two decade reign that ended in 1986.

[Lazaro] was one of the country’s most celebrated legal minds, having risen from the ranks to become the first career lawyer appointed as Government Corporate Counsel from 1976 to 1986 and the first GCC to be conferred by law with the emoluments, benefits, and rank of a Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeals and the first Presidential Adviser for Legal Affairs (PALA) to then President Ferdinand E. Marcos. An inspiration to many, Justice Lazaro helped in building Okada Manila and drove it to become one of Asia’s premier casino resorts,” a statement from Tiger Resorts read.

Lazaro, Tiger Resort officials added, helped Okada Manila “navigate through the pandemic” and maintained job security for workers throughout. He also laid the groundwork for the property’s recovery, the company asserted.

Lazaro is survived by his wife, Rose Marie, and five children.

Marcos Association

Lazaro’s appointment to chair of TRLEI in 2017 was certainly not without opposition. Lazaro’s reputation throughout the Philippines has always been checkered. That’s because of his close ties with Marcos Sr., who died in 1986 only three years after being booted and exiled from the country.

Marcos Sr. was accused of being a dictator who stole billions of dollars from the Philippines during his control of the country from 1965 through 1986. A people’s revolt led to Marcos Sr. fleeing the country and seeking refuge in Hawaii.

A class-action lawsuit filed in the United States on behalf of some 10,000 Filipinos went in favor of the plaintiffs long after Marcos Sr.’s death. Nearly $1 billion of Marcos’ money was given to victims and/or their surviving relatives in 1995. The funds were compensation for the torture, execution, and disappearance of thousands of Filipino people during Marcos Sr.’s reign.

Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the son of the late president, is set to become the next president of the Philippines after winning the national election earlier this month.

Kazuo Return

Lazaro replaced Kazuo Okada after the TRLEI board concluded that their founder was poaching money from the company for his own personal use. Company auditors alleged that Okada loaned himself $80 million in 2014 and more than $17 million in 2015, both loans with 0% interest. He was also accused of withdrawing $2 million from the company without board approval.

Okada has continually denied wrongdoing. This month, the Philippines Supreme Court ordered TRLEI to reinstate Okada to the board. But the court order is being contested by Tiger Resort officials.

The Okada Manila casino is TRLEI’s sole resort property.