UNDESIRABLE ALIENS?

THAT foreigners openly violate our laws is a sad statement of widespread corruption in the previous administration, especially inside the Bureau of Immigration (BI) and the Clark Development Corporation (CDC). 

That these two government agencies have long been confirmed as breeding grounds for corruption are best shown by the recent arrests of more than 1,316 Chinese nationals working in an illegal online gambling operations at Fontana Leisure Park inside the Clark Freeport in Pampanga.

The subsequent developments that unfolded after the Chinese nationals’ arrests were mirrors of how corruption has already been deeply ingrained in the country’s political and cultural system. 

It also confirmed that some former and current government officials are using their positions of power to connive with some well-known personalities of dubious reputation and character to enrich themselves and receive undeserved perks and privileges.

There’s no question to the fact that gambling tycoon Jack Lam, the arrested nationals’ supposed principal violated Philippine laws. He and other Chinese nationals that operate Fontana should be declared undesirable aliens.

 

Dark World 

The Bureau of Immigration said the foreigners most of whom were holders of tourist visa were working as call center agents and facilitators for what is suspected to be illegal gambling operations inside Fontana.

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II opened the lid of what could be a deeper and complicated and dark world of illegal gambling after he revealed that Fontana’s owner, gambling tycoon Jack Lam, attempted to bribe him and some officials of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR). 

He claimed that Lam offered him a total of P100 million for the release of the arrested Chinese nationals during a meeting in Bonifacio Global City a few days after the raid.

According to the justice secretary Lam said he had long been looking for a “ninong,” or godfather, in government to protect his gaming operations that include Fort Ilocandia in Laoag City, Ilocos Norte.

Aguirre turned down the offer noting that he would lose his moral authority to pursue the reforms ordered by the President should he accept the bribe.

Even PAGCOR chair Andrea Domingo was also reportedly offered one percent cut of Lam’s casino earnings which she likewise turned down.

Reports have it that last October more than 100 Chinese nationals were arrested by BI and NBI operatives while also illegally working in the same establishment.

But those arrested Chinese managed to escape prosecution after Lam reportedly gave the arresting government operatives an “offer they could not refuse”. 

 

Persona Non Grata

That Lam has no qualms in offering bribe money to high ranking officials like Aguirre and Domingo speaks volume of how he deals with current and even former government leaders.

People like Lam think that the only language our officials understand is the language of Money.

They are so used to bribing government officials and it’s no wonder that despite Lam’s confirmed illegal activities he remains untouchable and no government official had even dared to go after his person.

The truth is he must be considered an undesirable alien for deliberately violating immigration laws and therefore must be categorized as persona non grata.

His not so subtle attempt to bribe Aguirre and Domingo is enough reason for him to be deported pronto.

The sad part is that Aguirre himself would not lift a finger to go after him offering a lame excuse that the subject of their operations was not Lam but the Chinese nationals working illegally in his establishment.  

 

Who is Jack Lam?

In the high-stakes industry of gambling, Lam was known as a “rags-to-riches” guy whose extensive contacts have enabled him to build a gambling empire of sorts in Southeast Asia. 

Based on various accounts, Lam – known in international circles as Dr. Jack Lam Yin Lok is considered the “Godfather of Gambling” (from the Global Gaming Magazine in 2009) due to his meteoric rise in the gambling industry.

Born in Guangdong Province in China, Lam migrated to Hong Kong in 1979 to work as a bookkeeper for his uncle. 

He was soon exposed to the gaming industry while accompanying his uncle on trips to the nearby territory of Macau, the gambling Mecca in the region.

In 1981, Lam began working in the industry as a sub-agent, bringing junkets to Hong Kong and continuing to establish contacts in the region. 

He heads the Jimei Group, which not only controls two of Macau's most important gaming companies but also operates various casinos in Hong Kong, Singapore, and the Philippines.

 

Dummies

As far back as in 2006, then Senator Jinggoy Estrada accused Lam and his associate Stanley Ho of acquiring the operations of casinos in Ilocos Norte, Pampanga, Manila and Cebu through dummy corporations.

According to Estrada, Lam was able to control the operations of the government-owned Fort Ilocandia and the Fontana Leisure Parks, which enabled him to operate casinos in the two provinces.

The senator also alleged that Lam was able to get “hard-to-get" contracts to operate casino from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) “which included VIP rooms at the Heritage Hotel in Pasay City and at the Waterfront Airport Hotel and Casino in Cebu”.

“These operations are all disadvantageous to the government because they needlessly compete with the operations of PAGCOR, unduly cutting its revenues," Estrada said at the time.

 

Connections 

Estrada claimed that Lam established two dummy corporations, the Ilocandia Holdings, Inc. and the Intellectual Group, Ltd., to serve as majority shareholders of Fort Ilocandia Property Holdings and Development Corporation which owns Fort Ilocandia.

Lam however appeared in the general information sheet of the Fort Ilocandia as a director – with a nominal share worth one peso.

With Lam’s partnership with then PAGCOR chairman Ephraim Genuino, he allegedly managed to establish connections with former First Gentleman Mike Arroyo. 

Lam was suspected of spending for the plane fares and hotel accommodation of the First Gentleman and other politicians who watched the first Pacquiao-Morales fight in Las Vegas, Nevada at the time. 

It was rumored back then that Lam paid for the controversial US$20,000 a night suite at the MGM Grand used by the First Gentleman during the first Pacquiao-Morales fight.

 

Crown Jewel

The Fontana Leisure Parks and Casino, according to Sen. Estrada, was the “crown jewel” of Lam’s web of influence with Philippine government officials at the time. 

At that time, Fontana operates a casino that reportedly amasses a monthly gross income of 600 million pesos from 50 baccarat tables and over a hundred slot machines.

“The purchase of controlling shares of stocks by Lam of Fontana was made possible through the sale by another individual of ill-repute, the alleged smuggling lord, Lucio Co of his interests in Fontana, which roughly constitutes 90 per cent," the senator had said.

Lam reportedly managed to get the controlling shares of Fontana through other dummy corporations - the Clark International Recreation Holdings Corporation and the Clark Resort Co. Ltd.

“These companies, which are believed to belong to Jack Lam, are now apparently the majority owners of Fontana, controlling at least 90 per cent of the shares," Estrada pointed out back then.

 

Connections 

If journalists like Erwin Tulfo and others are to be believed, Lam has been using illegal aliens, mostly from China, in unlicensed online gambling operations inside Fontana for the longest time. 

In 2015, Tulfo published a series of articles in the Manila Times alleging that Lam and his Chinese and Korean friends have been operating their clandestine online casino at the Fontana Leisure Parks, allegedly with the “right connection” inside Malacañang Palace and Clark Development Corporation.

Tulfo noted that Lam is licensed only to operate land-based casino resorts, but he allegedly enjoys the protection of some corrupt officials of the CDC and the Subic Bay Management Authority (SBMA) in Zambales.

It is worth noting however that the head of CDC at that time is the current Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade.

CDC reportedly issued work visas on Chinese nationals who would want to work on Lam’s establishments although technically it was not allowed. 

It was because unlike other free ports in the country, the CDC and SBMA are not mandated to issue work visas – that accounted for the surge in the number of illegal aliens working inside Fontana.

Tulfo also claimed Lam’s illegal operations have thrived with the protection of CDC, SBMA and Malacañang officials on his “payroll.”

 

Milking Cows

Facts point to a certainty that it was impossible for former top CDC officials of the past administration including Tugade not to know about these illegal activities inside Fontana.

In fact, these illegal online gambling operations have been going on for the longest time.  

And based on Aguirre’s revelations current and former CDC officials have been raking hundreds of millions of pesos from Lam’s illegal operations after turning them as their virtual milking cows.

Now that Aguirre has opted to make this matter public, we could only watch and wait if the current Duterte administration that prides itself as vehemently against all forms of corruption would finally stand up against Lam.

Or would Lam once again use his considerable clout and connections to give our authorities like Aguirre a run-around? 

Your guess is as good as mine!  

 

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