The sacking of the entire board of the Nayong Pilipino Foundation demonstrates what President Rodrigo Duterte is willing and ready to do to achieve his goals.
He has shown yet again his readiness to fire members of the executive branch once they are shown to have breached the norms and ethics for the conduct of public office.
In addition, Duterte has also expressed in the Nayong Pilipino case his firm opposition to the licensing or establishment of more casinos in the country.
The case against the board of the Nayong Pilipino Foundation appears to be open and shut, because it had granted a long-term lease to a foreign firm for it to build an integrated resort-casino on a property the foundation manages in the Manila Bay entertainment city area. It is incredible that officials of our government would even dare to make this patently foolish and reckless decision.
Significantly, the President dismissed the entire Nayong Pilipino board led by Chairperson Patricia Ocampo, while she and her staff were socializing with officials of the leasing company.
The Palace explained the presidential action curtly, saying that the board entered into a “grossly disadvantageous” contract with Landing Resorts Philippines Development Corporation.
Ocampo denied allegations that the NPF board and management were involved in graft with the lease contract covering the Nayon Landing project.
She tried to use prospective earnings as justification for the contract. It is the same old story of what induces officials to commit graft and corruption in public office.
The President was more concise in explaining himself:
“I hate gambling. I don’t want it. There will be no casinos outside of what (already) exist. I’m not granting anything,” he said.
“You don’t give gambling licenses or franchises for 75 years,” Duterte added. “What I mean to say is this: when a child is born today, 75 years later — he is that old — there will still be gambling in the city? I will not allow it.”
The President does not stand alone in his decision to dismiss the entire Nayong Pilipino board.
The Commission on Audit had raised questions on the lease deal between Nayong Pilipino and Landing Resorts Philippines Development Corp. for the use of 9.57 hectares of land at the Manila Bay Reclamation Area.
In its 2017 audit report on Nayong Pilipino, CoA noted the NPF Board did not furnish the commission a copy of the report on the independent appraisal of the appropriate rental rate for the property.
There was no proof of advertisement to the public to get offers from other parties aside from Landing Resorts, the report said.
“Thus, Nayong Pilipino was not able to compare the offer of LRPDC with other quotations/offers from interested investors to determine whether the said offer was the most advantageous to the Foundation,” CoA said.
For his part, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra has ordered the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel (OGCC) to review carefully its legal opinion that evidently enabled the NPF to sign a lease contract with the Hong Kong-based casino resort operator.
“This review of all antecedent facts and relevant documents will guide the government in determining the proper course of action with respect to the lease contract,” Guevarra said.
All these actions are pertinent and necessary to establish the basis for the President’s drastic action.
Without question, Duterte has the authority to fire the board. After a review of the facts, the public should see that Nayong Pilipino foolishly misused or abused its authority.
Finally, all should take to heart the fact that the President has proclaimed a policy against the building of more casinos. This should not prejudice the operations of casinos already existing. And this certainly should abort any graft schemes that are now on the drawing boards.