By Jeffrey Damicog
The Department of Justice (DOJ) believes the President may need to issue an executive order (EO) to enforce a “no casino” policy over Boracay island.
“The President may, by an EO, direct the PAGCOR (Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp.) to prohibit the grant of licenses to casinos in Boracay and cancel existing license already granted… An EO is proper to direct PAGCOR to hold the grant of licenses to casinos in Boracay and to revoke existing licenses,” read the eight-page legal opinion signed by Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra.
The legal opinion dated October 8 was sought by the Department of Tourism (DOT) which expressed concerns about possible legal repercussions on the revocation of existing casino licenses in Boracay.
“The State possesses police power to prohibit gambling in the Philippines or any part of it and this power was validly delegated by law to the PAGCOR, a government corporation, which is subject to control by the President,” the DOJ pointed out.
It also assured that the provisional licenses granted by PAGCOR to casino operators are not contracts that bind the government to obligations.
“Truly, a license can be granted, revoked or withheld renewal at the instance of an issuing authority like the PAGCOR because it is an act of grace, a grant of privilege not regularly available to other persons. The provisions of a contract, on the other hand, are premised on mutual agreement of parties,” the DOJ explained.
“As we already stated, the regulation of gambling and casinos – including the recall of provisional licenses – is a valid exercise of police powers, the operators cannot, consequently, say that an EO directing the revocation of existing licenses violates the non-impairment clause under the Constitution,” it also indicated.
Meanwhile, the DOJ said either the Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force or a new working group can be tasked to create the EO.
The DOJ noted that the EO should contain provisions covering investments already shelled out by casino firms with provisional licenses.
“We are not unmindful of the fact that these investors may have already expanded capital on their investments. Thus, we are recommend that in coming up with the EO, provisions concerning the consequence of cancellation of provisional licenses be included,” it stated.