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Philippines officials to be investigated over casino graft claims

In the Philippines, the Office of the Ombudsman is reportedly set to investigate a pair of councilors for the city of Paranaque over allegations that they may have accepted ‘grease money’ in order to help fast-track the approval of Entertainment City casino projects.

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Complaint names trio:
According to a Friday report from The Philippine Star newspaper, a seven-page complaint-affidavit from Paranaque City Councilor Brillante Inciong names compatriots Edwin Benzon and John Ryan Yllana as the subjects of the inquiry. The action purportedly alleges that the pair is thought to have conspired with Paranaque City Council Executive Assistant Rick Villanueva in order to bribe fellow government employees, which is a violation of the code of conduct for public officials as laid out in Republic Act 6713.

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Three may be suspended:
While the investigation is taking place, Inciong has reportedly also asked the Office of the Ombudsman to suspend the trio so as to prevent them from ‘influencing or intimidating incumbent city officials and other persons’ that may have knowledge relevant to the investigation.
LONO controversy:
The Philippine Star reported that Yllana serves as the majority floor leader for Paranaque City Council while additionally chairing its Rules, Ethics and Oversight Committee. It has been alleged that the he inserted several ‘letters of no objection’ (LONO) into applications being made by gambling firms in April and offered bribes to fellow officials that objected to his actions.

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The newspaper reported that LONO memorandums are a requirement before gambling operators can be issued with a city permit and licensed by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation or the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office regulators. As such, Yllana’s alleged actions are thought to have led to several applications being fast-tracked including that for the recently-aborted $1.5 billion NayonLanding integrated casino resort project from Landing International Development Limited.

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Council now alleged to be a ‘paper mill’:
Inciong’s complaint reportedly charges that the Paranaque City Council has been transformed into a ‘paper mill’ that promises to issue LONO notices ‘favoring companies that promise and give grease money’.

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