POGO workers are not the enemy — Hontiveros

Photo courtesy of Senate PRIB

September 23, 2022

Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations (POGO) workers on Friday, 23 September gained unexpected support after opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros defended them against the Department of Justice’s proposed summary deportations of close to 300 Chinese by the end of the month.

“The POGO workers are not the enemy. The enemy is the syndicates that intertwined with the systems and policies which help them with their modus,” Hontiveros told Daily Tribune. 

“While these unscrupulous people continue to take advantage, the workers – Filipino or other nationals – continue to be abused,” she added.

Hontiveros said that as a signatory to multiple international conventions, the Philippine government should take responsibility for these POGO workers, whom she said were victims of human trafficking. 

“Based on our investigation in the 18th Congress that majority of the POGO workers who entered the country were victims of these syndicates — if not labor traffickers are sex traffickers,” she said. 

The lady senator also stressed that the recently-passed law on human trafficking victims mandates the government to assist trafficked foreign nationals. 

“The recently-passed Expanded Anti Trafficking Act of 2022 actually included, as part of the guarantee of protection and services to trafficked foreign nationals, practical needs such as the provision of interpreters and coordination with their embassy in the Philippines,” she said.

‘Gov’t serious on POGO issue’

Meanwhile, Senator Grace Poe lauded the efforts of the Justice department, which she said: “sends a firm message that the government is serious about tidying up the industry.”

“We call on concerned government agencies to work together tightly to ensure that synchronous actions are timely taken,” Poe told Daily Tribune.

“We will pursue the resolution we filed in the Senate to look into the social costs of their operations in the country,” she added, referring to the resolution she filed to look into the effect of the POGO industry in the country. 

Likewise, Senator Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito supported Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla’s plan to deport tens of thousands of workers from POGO with canceled permits.

“These illegal and overstaying aliens should be deported. In fact, there might be some foreign national syndicates who are using the POGO business avenue to enter the country and conduct their criminal activities here. Not just Chinese criminal syndicates, but also Cambodian and Vietnamese criminal syndicates,” he said. 

Ejercito urged the authorities to double their efforts to prevent illegal activities linked to the industry such as kidnappings, abductions, and other crimes. 

“The Bureau of Immigration, National Bureau of Investigation, and Philippine National Police NBI should work double time to monitor and detect these kinds of operations,” he said.

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