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Anne Lindner

Power Struggle in the Philippines

21 November 2002

A Philippine legislator is questioning the legitimacy of a license granted to Sports and Games Entertainment Inc. (SAGE) to offer online gambling in the country.

On Nov. 7, the Philippines Star reported that Sen. Robert Barbers told the lawmaking body that he is not happy with the fact that SAGE is licensed to operate online wagering by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor). Barbers would rather have SAGE licensed by the Senate.

"Whether it is played through the computer or not, as long as it is supposed to be regulated by Pagcor, it should pass through Congress and acquire the pertinent legislative consent governing the same," Barbers said. "But as far as I know, any form of online casino or electronic gambling has never been a part of our agenda in the Senate."

Patrick Deakin, the COO of SAGE, told IGN that the same concern was expressed by Barbers' predecessor in the Senate committee that oversees gaming and amusement. The predecessor, Sen. Robert Jaworski, filed a suit in the Supreme Court to determine whether Pagcor has the authority to grant such a license.

The case is still pending, Deakin said. Barbers said he would ask the Senate to examine Pagcor's ability to assign licenses to online gaming companies. Committee meetings on the subject could start as soon as the end of November.

Barbers told fellow lawmakers that he couldn't recall there ever having been a hearing to determine who could grant such licenses.

"If a public hearing was conducted, I would have recommended the grant of whatever franchise or permit is required if I knew from the start that it will have negative implications," Barbers said. "We must hear from Pagcor officials if the youth has direct access to gamble their money with them."

Deakin said SAGE is trying to keep Barbers' statements from interfering with the Supreme Court case.

"Barbers' comments can indeed affect the outcome of the case, which is why our lawyers will work to exclude SAGE from the hearings as the case is already in court," he said.

Pagcor issued an online gaming license to SAGE in 1998, but SAGE only started offering online gambling two years ago.

Barbers served as a police officer with the Manila Police Department for 27 years before being elected to the Philippines House of Representatives in 1992. He was so well known for his crime fighting that a movie, titled "Bobby Barbers - Parak" was made about his "no-nonsense" policing style. In 1996 Barbers was reelected to the House, but left his appointment early to be the secretary of the interior and local government under President Fidel Ramos. In 1998 he was elected to the Senate and became the first former police officer to serve there.

SAGE was continues to be licensed and regulated by Pagcor, which is controlled by the Philippine government.

Power Struggle in the Philippines is republished from
Anne Lindner
Anne Lindner