Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon lambasted the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) for pushing for the continued operations of Philippine offshore gaming operations (POGOs) to keep the negligible P8 billion it collects from fees and licenses, totally disregarding the rising social problems and gambling-related crimes brought about by allowing POGOs in the country.
“For P8 billion that you get from fees, you are saying that they should be here? That statement, I must say, is a stupid statement. Basta may pera na pumasok, all these evil things we tolerate,” Drilon stressed.
“I am disappointed at the statement today of Pagcor, saying that we are in favor of POGOs continuing its operation because of the income earned. That is a shortsighted statement,” Drilon said during the Senate Blue Ribbon’s hearing on the influx of foreign currency brought into the country mostly by Chinese nationals on Thursday.
Pagcor said that it collects P8 billion from fees and licenses from POGOs, which is just 0.03 percent of the economy.
Anti-Money Laundering Council Executive-Director Mel Georgie Racela confirmed that they monitored P14 billion worth of transactions that were related to suspicious POGO activities from January 2017 to October 2019, he noted. These include drug trafficking related activities and swindling.
Citing figures from the risk assessment conducted by the council, Drilon underscored the 63 casino kidnapping related cases from 2017 to 2019, which victimized Chinese businessmen engaged in online gaming.
The Philippine National Police said there are more or less 10 cases of POGO-related homicide cases.
NCRPO Chief Elise Eleazar also admitted that prostitution has seen an increase in the past three years due to POGO operations. He said that the PNP had already launched 10 police operations against prostitution dens involving foreign nationals, which resulted in the arrest of 60 suspects, 59 of whom are Chinese citizens.
The Pagcor admitted that there are about 120 non-licensed POGOs illegally operating in the country.
AMLC, on the other hand, reported that in 2019 alone, 200 internet-based POGOs illegally serviced online gaming operations.
“Is it worth all these problems that we face? The P8 billion income generated by Pagcor from POGOs is nothing compared to the social problems brought about by POGOs,” Drilon stressed.
“All these things happened since POGOs came into our shores. What benefits are we taking about?” Drilon lamented.
“Disgusting is a very mild term to describe your assessment of the POGO operations,” he added.
Drilon said that all these social problems that the country is facing today are enough basis to ban POGO operations in the country.
“It is a policy issue. To us, the policy should be to terminate these POGOs because of all these nefarious activities that we see today,” he reiterated. /Stacy Ang