Philippines Audit Commission Blasts PAGCOR for Excessive Compensation and 18-Carat Gold Rings

Posted on: July 23, 2018, 02:00h. 

Last updated on: July 23, 2018, 02:04h.

The Philippine Gaming and Amusement Corp. (PAGCOR) is being lambasted by the country’s Commission on Audit for allegedly providing senior officials with 18-carat gold rings and failing to pay the federal government the appropriate amount of tax on gambling revenues.

PAGCOR Andrea Domingo Philippines
Andrea Domingo’s PAGCOR could be in a world of trouble if an audit claiming the agency acted inappropriately with compensation and taxes be proven true. (Image: Grig Montegrande/Inquirer)

Earlier this month, the Commission on Audit released its annual review of the gaming regulator and operator. The agency determined that PAGCOR owes the government PHP 21.19 billion ($396 million) for failing to pay the correct amount of tax between 2011 through 2017.

PAGCOR regulates commercial casinos in the Philippines, but has also been an operator through its Casino Filipino brand. President Rodrigo Duterte has directed the agency to divest of its land-based venues and transition to a regulator-only capacity.

The audit commission additionally PAGCOR awarded executives who have worked with the agency for at least 20 years with the gold rings. More than $240,000 is said to have been spent on rings alone in 2017.

Staffers with 20 years of service additionally received cash bonuses that collectively totaled over a quarter of a million dollars.

PAGCOR Responds

PAGCOR Chairwoman Andrew Domingo is denying her agency did any wrongdoing or unjustly compensated its executives.

In an interview this week, Domingo said she stopped the issuance of gold rings for 20-year work anniversaries in 2016, and that the agency has indeed paid the full tax required to the government.

However, Domingo admitted she was “seeking clarification from the president” regarding compensation bonuses issued to workers.

“There were no additional benefits,” Domingo declared. “We only retained what was implemented by the last administration. We didn’t add any new benefits.”

Philippine law mandates that the maximum cash bonus for a federal employee who has worked 20 years should be no more than PHP 5,000 ($93). The audit commission says that was exceeded, but Domingo said she was simply following protocol that was in place when she became the agency’s chair in May 2016.

Duterte Threats

After taking office in June of 2016, Duterte promised to rid the country of corruption. The controversial leader, who’s been accused of violating basic human rights by the United Nation, sought to remove underground drug and gambling networks, and crackdown on graft within the government.

A year into his administration, the president told PAGCOR to sell off its 13 Casino Filipino venues and 35 satellite gaming cafes. Duterte’s reasoning was that officials within the gaming agency would be less prone to corruption if serving only in a regulatory role.

Earlier this year, he sent a specific warning to PAGCOR ordering the group to steer clear of bribes from gaming operators when it came to selling the properties.

“Please do not give them the luxury of extortion. All you have to do is call anybody in government and I will take care of it,” Duterte pledged.

Duterte stated this month that firings would be coming to PAGCOR. Domingo told reporters he was referring to gaming officials working in freeport zones, not specifically at PAGCOR.