The City Council’s committee of the whole will discuss next week the creation of a task force that will investigate the alleged operation of online gambling games by Chinese nationals in their rented rooms in 13 hotels and inns.
The creation of the special body was discussed on March 18 by the members of the City Council after Councilor Victor Oliveros brought it up on March 4.
Councilor Jimmy Carbonell, who temporarily sat as presiding officer during the question hour, said it will be composed of representatives from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), City Tourism Office (CTO), City Police Office (CPO), City Permits and Licensing Office (BPLO), Bureau of Immigration (BI), City Legal Office (CLO), and City Engineering Office (CEO).
Carbonell added representatives from all the concerned hotels and inns that are allegedly catering to the Chinese nationals will also be summoned to the committee meeting on Monday next week as suggested by vice mayor Luis Marcaida.
During the session, CTO assistant tourism officer Demetrio Alvior said they started monitorin the Chinese nationals who are operating online gambling games “as early as last year.”
Alvior said they immediately coordinated the matter with the Western Command (WESCOM) “for security purposes” and because those involved “are foreign nationals.”
“We confirmed that there are several tourist inns, particularly mga 20 rooms and below occupied [or] rented by Chinese nationals. Some hotels have closed so pang-residential na ‘yong category. Then some have not yet renewed their mayor’s (business) permits,” said Alvior.
He said they can no longer inspect the hotels and inns that have closed.
Alvior added some have even removed their personnel and staff.
Agent Roger Sususco, special investigator of the NBI, said they have also received information that there is ongoing online gaming in the city but have not yet validated the information.
“I think that it is totally illegal for them to work here because as I understand, gambling is per sé immoral. I think we should be part of this effort to weed out those tourists… aliens who come here and do business and weeding out the locals from their employment,” said Sususco.
Licensing Officer IV Aurea G. Pallaya said also that out of the 12 accommodations inspected by their joint inspection team, six had already closed.
“Out of 12 ay anim po ang nagpa-cancel ng kanilang mayor’s permit. So close na po sila as inn, [as] restaurant, [and as a] hotel. Wala pa silang application kung ano man ang panibagong business nila doon sa kanilang mga inns o hotels,” said Pallaya.
On the other hand, Thess Vicente Rodriguez, head of the City Licensing Regulatory, Enforcement and Monitoring Unit (CLREMU), said the closure of the establishments have alerted them since December and it was the reason they have launched the monitoring of their activities.
Rodriguez said they conducted a joint inspection on January 24, 2019, to verify the allegations from the list handed to them by the CTO and City PNP.
Rodriguez also reiterated some of the guards in the establishments do not have licenses.
“Actually, ‘yong mga business na ino-occupy ngayon ay hindi lang nine. Noong last week na lumakad kami, last Friday ay 12. Noong Saturday ay may dagdag na isa so 13 na po sila ngayon. Sa 13 na ito anim po ay nagpa-close in terms of license at saka pag-punta namin sa actual area wala talagang tao. May mga napuntahan kami na naka-close siya pero wala siyang operation, wala nang empleyado guard na lang ‘yong natagpuan namin. Pero nagduda nga kami kasi bakit ‘yong mga establishment na ito ay mayroong mga takip, may mga manila paper,” verified Rodriguez.