By Pia Ranada, May 28, 2018; Rappler
MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – President Rodrigo Duterte announced he has fired Government Corporate Counsel Rudolf Philip Jurado.
“May I call the Government Corporate Counsel now? Are you in this [room]? Nandito ka? Kasi kung nandito ka, lumabas ka. (Are you here? Because if you are, get out.) You are fired,” said Duterte on Monday, May 28.
He was giving a speech after signing the Ease of Doing Business and Efficient Government Service Delivery Act.
Duterte cited a supposed decision to “grant a franchise” to the Aurora Pacific Economic Zone (Apeco) as his reason for sacking Jurado.
“Alam mo, ‘yung (You know) Apeco was granted a franchise and everything and there’s always that accompanying provision about gambling. Wala akong magawa eh (I can’t do anything). I don’t like it,” said Duterte.
Jurado favoring Apeco was tantamount to the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel (OGCC) exercising the powers of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor), said Duterte.
“So you are just [like] Pagcor operating an independent entity with the same powers. You grant everything, kung hindi ka tarantado (if you aren’t a fool),” he said.
In a message to reporters, Jurado said he accepts and respects Duterte’s decision to fire him.
“As an appointee who serves under his pleasure, I am honored to have been given a chance to serve under his administration,” Jurado said.
Previously, Jurado was accused by officials under him in the OGCC of favoring Apeco in a legal opinion, and approving a 75-year casino permit.
The Apeco issue involves a legal opinion from the OGCC that said it was allowed to grant licenses for online gambling facilities operating outside the Aurora Economic Zone as long as it was within Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA)-controlled areas.
Jurado said a government corporate attorney and Assistant Government Corporate Counsel Maria Dolores Rigonan had drafted the opinion because its amended charter – Republic Act No. 9490 – allowed this.
Deputy Government Corporate Counsel Elpidio Vega reversed the opinion. But Jurado ended up agreeing with Rigonan’s draft opinion.
Duterte said Jurado was wrong to side with that draft opinion.
“When you are granted a franchise to conduct gambling in a certain facility, it does not include farming out that franchise to other cities and provinces. If it [were] like that, then you can ramble on, following your theory, you can ramble on to give permits beyond the shores of Luzon and you can do it in Siasi, Sulu,” said Duterte.
Jurado said the OGCC lawyers’ accusations against him was their reaction to a memo he sent Malacañang and the Department of Justice accusing 16 OGCC lawyers of receiving extra compensation directly from government owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs) which are clients.
Vega was among the lawyers who Jurado accused of receiving extra compensation computed at P1 million, the biggest chunk.
As for the 75-year casino permit he supposedly granted, Jurado said there was no truth to this as his office “has no power to approve casino permits or grant gambling franchises.”
Jurado has also opposed a bill seeking to put his office under the Office of the Ombudsman. Duterte first mentioned he might fire Jurado last May 19. Jurado was once lawyer for actor Robin Padilla, an ally of the President’s.