‘Oligarch’ Ongpin no match against Digong

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By Bernard Badilla-Toledo, Reporter

HAD it been a fistfight, it ended abruptly with one knockout punch.

For 15 years PhilWeb Corporation, an online gaming firm owned and operated by former Trade Secretary Roberto Ongpin had enjoyed the blessings and protection of the past regimes despite obvious violations that it has been committing in the conduct of its business.

This is not to mention the social costs and damages that it incurred on many families that found themselves dislocated and in poverty after being hooked on online gambling.

It took however President Rodrigo Duterte just 45 days to shut down the gambling firm’s operations and less than 12 hours before Ongpin packed up and leave his post after the Chief Executive called him a shining example of what an oligarch is.

His daughter, Anna Bettina Ongpin, also immediately resigned as vice-chairman of the firm. The Ongpins opted not to confront Duterte’s strong accusations, at least in public.

Pres. Duterte recently said oligarchs like Ongpin enrich themselves through their sheer political connections at the expense of the country’s resources and who “while sitting inside their planes or their mansions everywhere, are raking in money like taxi meters.”

He said Ongpin benefited so much from the government through his close connections with the powerful people from the previous governments, including that of Marcos’ administration.

The father and daughter perhaps realized that Duterte was completely different from the previous leaders they dealt with, thus, they preferred to just leave and fade into the backgrounds.

As a result, PhilWeb’s stocks plunged spiraling down to the dustbin.

The closure was in accordance with the policy of the Duterte administration to stop the proliferation of what many believe is destructive online gambling business in the country.

On August 10, PhilWeb president Dennis Valdes met Pagcor Chief Andrea Domingo and attempted to extend the online gaming company’s license.

According to Valdes, “PhilWeb is merely a software provider to Pagcor for its network of e-Games outlets and cannot be played on home and offices.

But as expected Domingo did not believe him as she stood firm on her decision not to renew PhilWeb’s license to operate.

Government data showed that the PhilWeb Corporation is officially listed as a gaming technology company and has 268 operating e-Games stations across the country.

PhilWeb claimed that its e-Games contributed more than P16 billion in revenues in the past 15 years to the Pagcor while providing around 5,000 employments as of August 11.

Most of its customers however are children of rich and middle class individuals, who are addicted to online gambling that include baccarat, blackjack, various slot machine games, video poker and sports betting.