POGOs must go amid links to criminal activities — Rep. Abante
MANILA, Philippines — Philippine offshore gaming operator (POGO) companies must be banned since they bring more harm than good to the country, longtime anti-gambling advocate and Manila 6th District Rep. Bienvenido Abante claimed on Monday.
Abante in a statement said that the incidence of crime within POGO setups only proves that these businesses should be banned in the country.
The lawmaker was talking about the Department of the Interior and Local Government’s recent revelation that they rescued a kidnapped Chinese and 42 other foreign nationals who were involved in the POGO industry.
“The recent spate of crimes involving POGO employees contribute to the growing mountain of evidence that strengthens the case for the prohibition of POGOs in the country,” Abante said.
According to Abante, Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno made a point recently which he agrees with — that the social cost of POGOs allegedly outweighs their benefits.
The lawmaker also highlighted that Philippine National Police (PNP) units have admitted that at least five kidnap-for-ransom groups are targeting POGO workers.
“The PNP-CIDG (Criminal Investigation and Detection Group) revealed that there may be at least five kidnap for ransom groups targeting POGO workers now operating in the country, and for them to thwart and capture these criminals, resources will have to be mobilized,” he explained.
“That is why I am not surprised that the President is seriously considering banning POGO firms, because even he sees the downsides of allowing these gambling operations in the Philippines,” he added.
Last Friday, Interior Secretary Benjamin Abalos Jr. said that authorities have managed to arrest a human resource officer of a POGO firm during an operation along the Fil-Am Friendship Highway in Angeles City, Pampanga.
He said that the operation was initiated after foreign police counterparts provided information to the local police — including complaints from the family of a kidnapped Chinese whose abductors were asking for a P1 million ransom.
Just this early September, several lawmakers have already asked the PNP to resolve the kidnappings of Chinese nationals in the country. Similarly, the Chinese Embassy in Manila said last Monday that it had requested Philippine authorities to intensify efforts to protect its nationals.
These incidents have led lawmakers, including Iloilo 1st District Rep. Janette Garin, to push for the banning of POGOs in the country — noting that the Philippines should learn a lesson or two from Cambodia and China which expelled these businesses.
In the 18th Congress, Abante filed House Bill No. 6701 or the Anti-POGO Act of 2020, which if passed would have prohibited the “conduct of online games of chance or sporting events via the internet using a network and software or program, exclusively to offshore authorized players, within Philippine territory”.
Just this August, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) admitted to the House that about half — and possibly more — of the POGOs in the country have already left, not due to crimes but because of high taxes imposed by the government.
According to Camarines Sur 2nd District Rep. LRay Villafuerte, even some legitimate POGO companies have left the country. Pagcor confirmed that from 60 licensed operators, there are just 30 right now, of which 27 remained active.
With reports from Kristelle Anne Razon, trainee
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