House bill banning POGOs filed amid links to spate of crimes

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Opposition lawmakers in the House of Representatives on Tuesday filed a bill seeking to ban Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) in the country, saying this only brought crime syndicates in the country.

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House Deputy Minority Leader France Castro, House Assistant Minority Leader Arlene Brosas, and Kabataan party-list Representative Raoul Manuel made the proposal under their House Bill 10525.

The lawmakers noted that Republic Act 11590, a law enacted in September 2021, only legitimized POGOs without considering harmful consequences given that gambling is illegal in China.

In an ambush interview during the filing of the bill, Castro said President Ferdinand Marcos Jr should clearly state if he would ban the POGOs.

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“Dapat ay magsalita na rin si Pres. Marcos, Jr kasi siya lang naman ‘yung puwedeng magsabi. At kung sasabihin niya na iba-ban talaga ang mga POGO dito ay mainam ‘yon. Pero kung di siya nagsasabi, baka – ano ba, ano bang masasabi natin diyan – may pinoprotektahan ba? So ‘yun ‘yung tanong natin,” she said.

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(The President should finally speak about it because only he has a final say on the matter, If he would say that POGOs should be banned that would be better. But if he would not make any statement, what can we say about that, are they protecting something? That’s our question)

GMA News Online reached out to Malacañang for comment but has yet receive a response as of posting time.

Marcos earlier said POGOs might no longer be worth allowing if their conducts bring social cost to the country considering the crimes linked to them.

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“PAGCOR (Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation) was proud of its numbers: POGOs contributed P657 million in just their first year, hitting P3.924 billion the next, and P7.365 billion in 2018. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, PAGCOR promised expected POGO revenues to reach P8 billion. All Duterte-era heads of agencies, such as the Securities and Exchange Commission and Bureau of Internal Revenue, also proclaimed hefty revenues in fees and taxes from POGOs. Never mind that what the Philippines essentially, did was to make legal here what is illegal somewhere else, namely, China,” the bill read.

“Never mind that, with the intlux of POGOs, it brought with it a swarm of crimes as testified to by police raids, and by the PAGCOR itself, Anti-Money Laundering Council, and various other agencies-rape, murder, illegal recruitment, human trafficking, prostitution, illegal detention, inhumane labor terms and conditions, money laundering, immigration bribery schemes, to name just a few,” it added.

The lawmakers also cited findings from the Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Center which found out that many POGOs started operating during the pandemic as “scam hubs” for fake online charity, fake shopping websites, fake online sellers, fake relative/friend dating and “romance scams,” fake foreign exchange investment, fake loans, and the like.

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“With this long list of felonies and the long years that POGO were allowed to proliferate in the country, the 10-hectare POGO hub raided in Bamban, Tarlac under the probable auspices of suspended Mayor Alice Guo is merely the tip of the iceberg. Still, POGOs have operated and continue to operate now, even after his term to the detriment of their victims: not just the economy as a whole but, more importantly, the Filipinos caught in the POGO web of criminality,” the bill said. 

The touted economic benefits of POGO, the legislators said, are also declining with Department of Finance and other economic government agencies records showing that its contributions to government revenues never went past 1% of gross domestic product (GDP), even when it reached its peak in 2019.

“It is high time to ban POGOs and criminalize their operations. For these reasons, immediate approval of this bill is sought,” they added.—with a report from Tina Panganiban-Perez/AOL, GMA Integrated News

 

 



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