Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr has sworn in the new board of gambling regulator PAGCOR, with entrepreneur and Marcos ally Alejandro H. Tengco taking over as chairman and CEO.
The Philippine gambling industry has entered its next phase of development with the swearing in of the board of PAGCOR, which serves as regulator, casino operator and executor of most national policy on gambling, including land-based and online.
Marcos swore in the five-strong board on late Monday (August 22), with PAGCOR confirming the board members in a statement on Tuesday.
Tengco replaces Andrea Domingo, whose six-year term under former President Rodrigo Duterte was marked by consistent support for the industry in the face of pandemic disruption, tax department demands for greater revenue and Chinese government campaigns against both land-based and online operations.
Tengco is the owner of building contractor Nationstar Development Corp and a former vice mayor of Malolos, a city northwest of Manila. He was described by the Bilyonaryo media outlet in May as a “long-time friend” and “bosom buddy” of Marcos and close to the wider Marcos family.
He is also a former special assistant to Antonio “Tonyboy” Cojuangco, a billionaire entrepreneur and hotelier who originally invested in the Okada Manila integrated resort. Cojuangco recently supported Japanese pachinko mogul Kazuo Okada’s forcible takeover of the property from his family rivals.
The PAGCOR board answers to the Office of the President and its members have long been an extension of presidential power and patronage, with little to no industry expertise featuring in the directors’ careers.
The current board is no exception, although the elevation to president and COO of Juanito L. Sañoso, Jr, formerly PAGCOR corporate secretary and vice president of compliance and governance, is unusual in providing a degree of continuity between the Duterte-era board and the Marcos line-up.
The new government has yet to hint at the trajectory of gaming policy, but the combination of Tengco’s appointment to the top job and Sañoso’s promotion suggests the industry presages stable oversight for the next six years, especially compared with the disruption that marked Duterte's first year in office.
The three additional directors have pro-Marcos, non-gaming backgrounds.
Journalist and broadcaster Gilbert Cesar C. Remulla is a former member of the House of Representatives and notable for supporting Marcos on his Twitter account, as well as expressing hostility to the Rappler media group, whose pro-democracy CEO Maria Ressa won the Nobel Peace Prize amid prosecution of her company.
Francis Democrito C. Concordia is an engineer and has represented Asia Defense & Armament Corporation, a bidder for supplying the Philippine military.
Jose Maria C. Ortega, the most obscure of the directors, appears to be a member of the powerful Ortega clan from La Union Province, north of Manila.
Although the board represents an unusual degree of continuity compared with previous hostile changes in membership, revised data on PAGCOR’s website indicates that influential management figures Jose Tria Jr and Arthel Caronongan have left the organisation.
Tria was special assistant to Domingo and vice president for igaming and licensing and regulation, while Caronongan was Domingo’s chief of staff.