SAYING “it’s game over for the POGO industry,” the head of the Senate Ways and Means committee on Wednesday endorsed for plenary approval his panel’s recommendation for a permanent and total ban on Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs).
Senator Win Gatchalian sought the immediate closure of POGOs in the country to, in his words, help maintain peace and order and sustain economic growth. He said in his sponsorship of the report, rendered after four hearings, that clearly, “the costs of POGOs outweigh their benefits.”
The Senate Committee on Ways and Means conducted public hearings on the socioeconomic benefits of maintaining POGO operations in the country following numerous reports of crime attributed to the industry, notably the abduction of POGO players, the prostitution of illegally trafficked Asian women used to “entertain” POGO workers, and the bribery schemes involving corrupt immigration personnel expediting the entry of illegal workers.
Gatchalian serves as chairman of the committee.
Specifically, he urged for “the adoption of a resolution urging the executive department to immediately ban all POGO operations in the country with the end in view of upholding the safety of the Filipino people, and to sustain the path to growth and development consistent with the administration’s economic reforms.”
In the same report, Gatchalian also urged Congress to pass legislation that would separate the functions of regulation from operation in Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp.’s (Pagcor) charter.
He said a new entity should be created to perform solely regulatory functions, authorization, and licensing of games of chance and other forms of gambling, while Pagcor will continue solely as a gambling operator.
He also urged the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to look for alternative employment placements for Filipino nationals employed by POGOs—estimated in the tens of thousands—taking into account their skills and capabilities with the possibility of being absorbed by other industries such as IT-BPOs and manufacturing through proper coordination.
The report further urged the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) to collect the tax liabilities of Pagcor’s third-party auditor, POGO licensees, and their service providers which can be used to finance priority development projects of the government.
Last week, Pagcor, citing fraud and other criminal wrongdoing, fired its third-party auditor after a review that began in September when the new management took over and assessed the contract it inherited from its predecessor.
Meanwhile, Gatchalian also directed the Bureau of Immigration (BI) to cancel and revoke the working visas issued to POGO foreign nationals employed in the POGO industry and implement the deportation of said foreign nationals following immigration rules and regulations.
“Kung susumahin ang lahat ng mga ebidensya at datos na isiniwalat na kaugnay sa operasyon ng POGO, lumalabas na puro perwisyo lamang at walang pakinabang sa bansa ang mga POGO. Panahon na para buwagin ito. [If we put together all the evidence an data that were exposed on POGO operations, it is clear that POGOs have brought us mostly problems and no benefits. It is time to dismantle these],” he concluded.