FINANCE Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III on Friday said lawmakers must pass a law prohibiting Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators in the country as the present setup considers POGOs legitimate businesses in the country.
Dominguez argued that they cannot implement things that are not under the law, as they may be accused of “overstretching.”
“The laws that were passed by the legislature allow it. But if you don’t want to allow it? Pass a law. It’s as easy as that,” he said in a press conference following the Investment Coordination Committee-Cabinet Committee meeting.
Dominguez said his department is the “only one trying to make these Pogos follow the law” by going after those tax-dodging businesses.
“It (Pogo) is legitimate. What I am going after are people who do not follow the law. And the law we can go after them [are tax laws],” he said.
Dominguez also said the same thing also applies when it comes to the influx of foreign currencies since the law currently says it is legal to bring in any amount of foreign currency as long as it is declared.
Under existing laws, amounts of foreign currency exceeding $10,000 in value are allowed to be brought into the country for as long as they are declared.
“Now, if people in the legislature want more teeth to look into this, pls give us more teeth. Please. Why? We are not the ones who make things legal or illegal. It is the legislature. We implement,” he said.
Earlier in the day, Dominguez lamented that the existing Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2001 is a “weak tool against money laundering and other unlawful activities.”
He said tax evasion and other financial wrongdoings are not among the predicate crimes listed under the law that would allow the AMLC to examine bank accounts after securing a court order.
This, he said leaves them “powerless in going after tax evaders and other criminals using funds for other illegal activities.”
Aside from this, Dominguez said the alleged money laundering issue should prompt lawmakers to see the need to lift the bank secrecy law especially for suspicious activities.
On Thursday, Senate Blue Ribbon Committee Chairman Richard J. Gordon said during the hearing that a total of 60 individuals brought in foreign currencies amounting to $633.029 million or P32.02 billion from September 2019 until Thursday, March 5, 2020.
The BOC identified in its report to Dominguez two syndicates bringing huge sums of foreign currency into the country as “Rodriguez” group and “Chinese” group.
The disclosure came amid rising concerns on the presence and operations of Chinese-dominated POGOs.
Operators in the country, which have expanded alongside an increasing tally of crimes involving Chinese POGO workers and personalities, including kidnapping and prostitution.
Last week, a Chinese POGO worker was shot dead by two compatriots inside a restaurant in Bel- Air, Makati City, a case that alarmed the Philippine National Police (PNP), which admitted the spike in Chinese-related crimes.
Image credits: AP/Wong Maye-E