Hysterics

For the country to lose a revenue stream over crimes that the police can solve and help avert would be foolish.

Finally, there’s the sense against throwing the baby with the bathwater amid the hysterical cries of some lawmakers to ban all Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators, including those that had been properly registered by the government and given the necessary permits by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp.

This week, Philippine National Police chief Gen. Rodolfo Azurin said that they have teamed up with Pagcor, the Department of Labor and Employment and the Bureau of Immigration in order to crack down on the operations of illegal POGOs that had been primarily tagged in kidnapping and homicide incidents.

A distinction has to be made between legal POGOs that provide the government a steady revenue stream and the illegal ones that, naturally, can be expected to operate outside of the bounds of the law.

Problems with illegal POGOs are actionable police concerns, and Azurin was correct in acknowledging as much, and in involving the BI, Pagcor and DoLE in immediately identifying the illegals to either arrest or deport them.

Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla this week gave BI’s new chief Norman Tansingco his marching orders not to allow any shenanigans at the bureau. With that, BI should not just deport the illegals, but also slam the door shut on foreigners of dubious character who want to enter the country.

Azurin reported on Saturday that four Chinese and a Filipino “cohort” had been arrested by the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group after they held a 28-year-old POGO staffer against her will inside a Pasay City condominium unit.

The police rescued the woman after her friend filed a complaint that they were being asked to cough up P2 million in ransom for her release. Clearly, the kidnapping was not POGO-related, just a case victimizing a POGO worker.

Also on Saturday, Interior and Local Government Secretary Benhur Abalos personally closed down an illegal POGO firm in Angeles City, Pampanga after it was linked to the abduction of 43 Chinese nationals. Abalos said the shuttered Lucky South 99 company was operating without a Pagcor license.

Through an interpreter, the DILG chief assured the about 40 Chinese found still working in the firm of their safety as they were afraid of also being kidnapped like the 43 that were rescued. Abalos learned that the workers’ documents, including passports, had been taken away from them by Lucky South 99. The Chinese nationals were to be placed under the custody of BI for the validation of their immigration status.

During a hearing of the Senate on public order and criminality, one lawmaker called for a total ban on POGOs, saying the “social cost” of their continuing operation in the country is over whatever incomes the government generates from the sector.

The lady senator then cited Pagcor’s own figures that POGOs’ revenues peaked at P6 billion in 2018 before dropping to P5 billion in 2019, P4 billion in 2020, P2 billion in 2021, and P1 billion in 2022.

She, however, failed to put the numbers in context, conveniently failing to acknowledge the fact that the Covid-19 lockdowns lasting for about two years affected all businesses, including POGOs, so the latter’s sliding incomes merely tracked similar downtrends in other industries.

The senator spoke like she could just pluck from thin air whatever revenue losses the government and providers of office and living spaces and other services would stand to absorb if the hysterics over the activities of some rogue foreigners result in the legitimate POGO sector becoming collateral damage.

The world is coming out of the pandemic, according to the World Health Organization, and for the country to lose a revenue stream over crimes that the police can solve and help avert would be foolish.


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