Ex-Presidential spokesperson is legal head of raided POGO hub  

Jenny Ortiz 1 week ago
Ex-Presidential spokesperson is legal head of raided POGO hub  

Former Philippines presidential spokesperson Harry Roque has been named as the “legal head” of Lucky South 99, a Philippine Offshore Gaming Operator (POGO) in Pampanga, according to the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR). The facility was raided twice last month for allegations of human trafficking, torture, and scams.  

PAGCOR Chairman Alejandro Tengco revealed that Roque visited his office in July 2023, offering legal assistance to Cassandra Lee Ong, the authorised representative of Lucky South 99. Ong had sought PAGCOR’s help regarding financial issues at the POGO compound, including a request to settle unpaid taxes in instalments.  

During the Senate committee hearing on women and gender equality on Wednesday, Tengco presented an organisational chart from Lucky South 99’s original licence application, which listed Roque as “legal.”  

Roque’s denial  

In a video statement, Roque denied any lawyer-client relationship with Lucky South 99. He claimed he facilitated the company’s licence reapplication in 2023 when the POGO was not yet deemed illegal. Roque also stated that he did not authorise his inclusion in the organisational chart.  

Tengco’s revelation came a week after the PAGCOR Chief promised to disclose the name of a former Cabinet official who helped issue licences to illegal POGO hubs.  

Meeting with PAGCOR  

Tengco recounted that Roque, accompanied by Ong, visited his office to discuss Lucky South 99’s unpaid taxes, which amounted to at least $500,000 (€461,335). Ong alleged that Dennis Cunanan, who was supposed to remit the taxes to PAGCOR, failed to do so, collecting payments for six months without forwarding them.  

Tengco described his interactions with Roque as cordial, noting that Roque did not exert any undue pressure. Roque followed up on Lucky South 99’s reapplication for a licence several times but was informed that the application was rejected due to missing documents.  

Roque later clarified that he accompanied Ong as part of his efforts to engage Whirlwind Corporation, which leased property to Lucky South 99, in his energy projects in Bataan and Cebu. He asserted that he was unaware of Lucky South 99’s illegal status.  

Senate inquiry and further actions  

Senator Risa Hontiveros, chair of the Senate committee, announced that Roque and former PAGCOR chief Andrea Domingo would be invited to the next hearing. A 2021 letter with Roque’s name and the Office of the President’s letterhead was found during the raid on Lucky South 99, but Roque denied any connection to the document.  

Roque’s defence  

Roque reiterated that he did not participate in preparing Lucky South 99’s organisational chart, which listed him as legal counsel. He challenged Hontiveros to prove his involvement in creating the document, asserting that no such evidence exists.  

Roque explained that he believed Ong and Lucky South 99 were victims of fraud and accompanied Ong to PAGCOR to help resolve the issue. He maintained that his involvement was limited to his role with Whirlwind Corporation and that he had no direct engagement with Lucky South 99 as a POGO

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