To Rono or Not To Rono

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By Andy H. Hagad

Bottom Line

Monday, January 13, 2014


WHAT’S the beef between the Sangguniang Panlungsod and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation? Let’s try and find out.

Our city councilors have questioned Pagcor’s transfer of casino operations from the Goldenfield Commercial Complex to the L’Fisher Hotel Annex Building, including the construction by the hotel of an overhead bridge which connects it to the annex, without securing a “Resolution of No Objection (Rono) from the SP.

In reply, the Bacolod Casino Management informed the Sangguniang Panlungsod that it had already forwarded the ¬councilors’ resolution to the Pagcor Head Office in Manila. It then proceeded with the inauguration of the new site without waiting for Head Office to respond positively, prompting the boycott by the councilors of the inauguration – which of course stoked the interest and attention of media which smelled a controversy in the making.

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When it required the Rono, the SP was apparently invoking the provisions of Republic Act No. 9487 which directs the Pagcor to “obtain the consent of the local government unit that has territorial jurisdiction over the area chosen as the site of any of its (Pagcor’s) operations.”

Said provision can be interpreted in two ways: Pagcor may claim that there is no need for the Rono because it already obtained clearance from the SP when it applied for the Goldenfield Commercial Complex casino operations, which like L’Fisher is located in Bacolod City. The Sanggunian may, on the other hand, insist that its consent is required when the Casino transferred to a different site, even if still in Bacolod City. It can also insist, as I think it has, that the construction of the overhead bridge itself needs a Rono.

Can the SP pass a resolution or an ordinance prohibiting Pagcor from operating the L’Fisher Casino if it refuses to apply for a Rono? Apparently not. In 1992, the Sangguniang Panlungsod of Cagayan de Oro City passed an ordinance prohibiting the Pagcor from opening and operating a casino in the City, invoking its authority under the General Welfare Clause embodied in the Local Government Code. It claimed that the operation of the casino was detrimental to public morals, among other reasons.

In resolving the case, the Supreme Court noted that Pagcor was operating u-nder a statute (P.D. 1869) which in another case had already been declared constitutional. The decision then reminded the petitioners that a city ordinance cannot annul or limit the effects of a law passed by the Legislature.

But though it cannot prohibit the Pagcor from operating the casino in Bacolod City, it seems Pagcor is on its part ordered by R.A. 9487 to secure SP consent (which may take the form of a Rono) before it can proceed to operate at L’Fisher. But even without the law, the norms of professional ethics and etiquette should have moved it to at least inform and coordinate its transfer with the city government. Then all of these would have been a non-issue – and a non-event.*

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on January 13, 2014.

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