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Biz Buzz: Manila Golf free ride

/ 12:45 AM March 08, 2017

Many well-heeled members of Manila Golf and Country Club are abuzz with the word going around this week that a frequent denizen of the country’s premier golfing venue is running as a candidate for board member in the elite organization’s annual elections on Saturday.

What’s the big deal? Every member has the right to run for office, right?

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That’s the thing: This would-be candidate isn’t actually a real member in the true sense of the word. That is, he didn’t pony up the P40 million needed to buy a club share in Manila Golf but, as it turned out, had been playing these past few years thanks to the membership of a large Ortigas Center, Pasig City-based corporation. He was, in effect, granted the right to play a few years ago by this corporation (having served on its board of directors under the previous owners, we understand).

Now, Candidate Man (as we shall call him) is running for the board under the banner of a reform agenda, promising to pore over the books of Manila Golf and scrutinize the dealings of its past administrations. This, of course, is leaving a bad taste in the mouth of many members who know that he’s really not a full-fledged club member. “The gall!” one exclaimed.

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Just to be sure, some club members checked with the company that’s sponsoring him and it turns out that they simply overlooked the fact that someone had been playing in Manila Golf all this time using the company share (the firm has more important things to worry about, apparently). “We didn’t know he’s using the company share,” came the reply.

So the members are piqued by the fact that Candidate Man is promising to reform Manila Golf while just piggybacking on the club share of a firm that isn’t even fully aware that it’s giving someone a free ride.

But ultimately, the question is will he muster enough votes to win? We’ll know by Saturday. —DAXIM L. LUCAS

Solar versus piracy

The chief prosecutor of Quezon City recently issued a resolution indicting Philip Chien and other officers and directors of First United Broadcasting Corp. (FUBC) with—get this—253 counts of copyright infringement in a case watched for its implications for technology innovation and intellectual property protection in the Philippines.

Biz Buzz learned that the ruling held Chien and other FUBC directors and officials liable because they were not authorized to “air, transmit, distribute and broadcast” to the public through their Global Pinoy Channel at least 26 movies owned by Solar Entertainment Corp. These movies included the likes of “Inay,” “Dunkin Donato,” “Abrakadabra,” “Hari ng Yabang,” “Mukang Bungo,” “Basagulero,” “Ang Kuya kong Siga,” “Kalibre 45,” “Lihim ni Madonna” and “Mananayaw.”

According to the evidence cited, Global Pinoy Channel aired these movies without the consent and approval of Solar at least 253 times. The ruling was short on specifics, but industry watchers said it would likely curb intellectual piracy and other similar forms of copyright infringement in the local television and cable industry.

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The ruling stated that “the evidence is clear that the copyright to the subject 26 movies is owned by [the] complainant. Hence, they cannot be broadcast without the knowledge and consent of the complainant. The evidence shows that the subject movies were broadcast for as many as 253 times.”

The local industry has been watching to see how this case will be resolved due mainly to the problem of rampant piracy and copyright infringement in the country. To date, this ruling is the first criminal case—with 253 counts, mind you—of copyright infringement involving pirated movies that will be filed in court.

Will this case tip the scales between technological innovation and protecting intellectual property in favor of the latter?  Expect similar cases to be filed soon. —DAXIM L. LUCAS

Money back

In a recent congressional hearing on a controversial casino leasing deal, the state-owned Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. was challenged to encash or deposit a P234-million check issued by contractor Vanderwood Management Corp.

So the gaming regulator did just that. We heard that the undated Vanderwood check— which matches the much-ballyhooed down payment made by Pagcor for the yet-to-be-completed casino and which the Commission on Audit (COA) has disallowed—has cleared.

From the point of view of proponents, this only shows that the money was there all along and that Pagcor was “well-protected” in this contract, no matter what critics say.

The amount of P234 million was to cover 12 months’ advance rental and six months’ security deposit at P13,000 a month pursuant to the lease contract—not too different from other contract deals that required advance rentals executed by Pagcor from 1986 to 2003.

Sources said in the case of Vanderwood, which is controlled by businessman Manuel Sy, the new casino facility being built for Pagcor under leasehold rights at Army Navy Club in Manila is now 95 percent complete. This has been the subject of multiple lawsuits but proponents are confident that the transaction will proceed.

The Volunteers against Crime and Corruption (VACC) has questioned the deal in court, citing COA’s report that the payment was “irregular” and “anomalous” because the gaming facility was to rise on a lot owned by the City of Manila and leased to Oceanvilla Hotel and Spa Corp. that, in turn, subleased it to VMC. COA also cited the common practice in the rental industry that advance rental is made only when the leased property is ready for occupancy or at least existing at the time of execution.

But Pagcor and proponents have maintained that the terms and conditions of the 15-year lease contract were most favorable to Pagcor and that payment of advance rental, which was to be applied upon acceptance as security deposit, was allowed by law.

Pagcor also asserts that the standards and practices for the rental industry that the COA referred to are now applicable to Pagcor since it is a 100-percent government-owned and -controlled corporation tasked with the generation of revenue for the government to fund its sociocivic and national development programs.

Pagcor thus finds it a “mystery” that COA would raise a red flag questioning and disallowing the “time-honored” practice of releasing the advance rental and security deposit upon contract execution. —DORIS DUMLAO-ABADILLA

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