CA says internet gambling not punishable by PH law

Posted at 01/23/12 3:52 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Charges against foreign and local directors of an alleged virtual casino operating in Clark Special Economic Zone in Angeles, Pampanga have been ordered dismissed by the Court of Appeals (CA).

In a decision by Associate Justice Amelita Tolentino, the CA's Sixth Division granted the petition filed by British Grand Vision International Co. incorporator Edgar Lim, seeking to nullify the resolution issued by the Department of Justice (DOJ) on February 19, 2009, which ordered his indictment along with his Taiwanese partners for illegal gambling.

The CA said the DOJ committed grave abuse of discretion in holding that internet gambling or online casino is included in the illegal acts punishable under Presidential Decree No. 1602 and ordering the filing of charges against Lim and more than 40 other respondents.

It noted that Section 1 of PD 1602 does not indicate that internet gambling is among those illegal acts penalized by the said law.          

"Therefore, there is no law that punishes internet gambling or on-line casino. Well settled is the principle that 'there is no crime when there is no law penalizing it,'" the CA ruled.

PD 1602, which was enacted on June 11, 1978, has been the subject of several amendments. But the CA said these amendments failed to include and provide for any penalty for internet gambling.

"In order to constitute a crime, the act or acts complained must be within the letter and spirit of the penal law. Hence, the act of the respondent Secretary of justice in ordering the filing of information against the petitioner for violation of PD 1602, has in effect exceeded his authority and had impliedly amended PD 1602," the CA said.

"This act of the respondent Secretary of Justice is a clear and grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction," said added.

The CA said then-Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales should have dismissed the petition for review filed by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) of the resolution of the City Prosecutor of Angeles City  dated November 17, 2006 junking their complaint against Lim and his co-accused having been filed out time.

In October 2006, NBI agents seized some P30 million worth of expensive  equipment used in illegal online gambling during a raid at the Transglobal Building, Andrew Street, Civil Aviation Complex, A. Bonifacio, Hangar 7260, Clark Special Economic Zone, Angeles City, Pampanga.

A complaint for illegal gambling was filed against Lim and the other incorporators and personnel of the British Grand Vision International by the NBI and Pagcor.