Press Release
June 17, 2020

De Lima calls for Senate probe into increasing frequency of illegal POGO activities

Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has called for a Senate inquiry into the arrests made and cases filed relating to the operations of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) to ensure that the law enforcement agencies are handling the cases with due diligence and resolving them.

In filing Senate Resolution (SR) No. 440, De Lima stressed the need to determine ultimately whether there is sufficient basis to allow the continued operation of POGOs in the country.

"The current administration's kid glove approach against POGO-related criminality has emboldened these POGOs to continue its activities unimpeded within the Philippines, with little to no regard for our laws nor our standards for public health and safety," she said.

"Congress should now step up and re-evaluate our country's policies concerning the regulation of POGOs and determine whether or not they should be permitted to legally operate in our country once and for all," she added.

Last May 1, Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) Chairman Andrea Domingo stated that licensed POGOs would be allowed to resume operations "on a very limited basis and with very strict protocols."

However, on May 21, Bureau of Internal Revenue Deputy Commissioner Arnel Guballa announced that no POGOs or any of their service providers would be allowed to resume their activities as not one of them had fully paid their tax obligations as part of the conditions to resume operations amidst the COVID-19 lockdown.

Even before and after said announcement, De Lima said there were several arrests related to POGOs, including, among others, the raid by the police force of a building in Makati City following reports that illegal POGO activities were being held at the location last May 7. The police apprehend 63 Chinese nationals and 13 Filipinos.

De Lima also recalled the arrest of a total of 92 Chinese nationals by the cops in a motel in Bacoor, Cavite last May 30 for engaging in illegal POGO activities, with authorities confirming that most of the individuals arrested had neither work nor travel documents.

The former justice secretary said the increasing frequency of the illegal POGO activities right in the middle of a public health crisis merits a clear and unequivocal action from the government, including Congress.

"There is a need to determine the resolve in which our law enforcement sector implements our laws against POGOs," she said.

"PNP, the Department of Justice, and the Bureau of Immigration should report on the cases involving POGOs and how said cases are being dealt with in order to determine if our government is meeting the challenges posed by the POGOs against our rule of law," she added.

De Lima likewise highlighted the need to determine the cost of policing the POGOs to see whether their presence contributes to the country's economy and whether the revenues justify the social costs.

"PAGCOR and the Department of Finance must present justification as to why POGOs should be allowed to continue in our country in spite of their well-documented, repeated and continuous offenses against Philippine laws," she said.

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