Pimentel urges Congress to prioritize bill banning POGOs

Photo courtesy of Senate PRIB.

1 week ago

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III on Monday urged Congress to hasten a measure that will prohibit Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations (POGOs) due to its link with the recent spate of kidnappings, abductions, and other crimes. 

“Given what we’re seeing now as numerous ill effects of POGOs, the Congress has the moral duty to ban POGOs. We should act now, it will be a bipartisan measure,” Pimentel said in a statement.

“We can’t afford to dilly-dally on banning POGOs when the nation’s moral fiber and peace and order are on the line,” he added.

Likewise, the minority leader called on the majority bloc of both the House of Representatives and Senate to prioritize the measure that will impose a total ban on POGO operations in the country.

“You are the majority. Get your act together. If you say ‘stop POGO,’ we will support you,” he said.

Pimentel explained that the POGO industry is “detrimental to the Republic of the Philippines.”

“The continued operation of POGOs in the country is dangerous,” he said.

“It is akin to harboring would-be criminals and gangsters that can eventually cause massive disruption of peace and order in the country as we are beginning to see now with the spate of kidnapping incidence and other violent activities related to POGOs,” he added.

‘Wait a minute’

For his part, Senate President Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri said that the majority bloc, which he leads, will wait for the committee report of Senator Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa.

“We’re awaiting the committee report of Sen. Bato before we make a final decision,” Zubiri said.

“But on a personal note, we must weigh the social costs of POGO vis a vis the meager income they give to the national coffers of only P3 billion a year,” he added. 

He also pointed out that POGO companies do not employ Filipinos “so there is no added benefit to our local labor force.”

“So the question is, is it worth it? That will be tackled during the presentation of the Committee Report of Sen. Dela Rosa,” he said.

Dela Rosa, chair of the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs, earlier said that his panel will come up with a recommendation this week on whether to ban the industry or continue regulating it in the country.

Last week, the panel conducted a hearing on the two separate resolutions to probe the recent rise of cases of kidnappings, abductions, and other crimes in the country. 

Meanwhile, Sen. Grace Poe, a member of the majority bloc, expressed her support for the proposal to ban the industry. 

“It’s like POGO as a mother vice gives birth to a whole slew of other vices and crimes,” Poe said. 

Citing a report from the Philippine National Police, she said that “the Philippines became a cradle for Chinese gangsters after Vietnam and Cambodia banned China-backed online gambling and overseas casinos.”

“In 2022 alone, the majority of kidnapping cases are POGO-related,” she added.

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