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Profiting from cross-border crime

“While gambling is considered criminal and is clearly outlawed in China, online gambling, likewise, criminal and illegal, can be carried out far from the long arm of Chinese laws. Does that make an illegal act legal?

Dean Dela Paz

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It’s a crusted old joke. A man asks a woman if she would consider a night of illicit sex with a stranger if she were paid $10 million for it. The woman, blinded by the attraction of the money, says she would consider it. Seizing the opportunity, the man quickly whips out a $20 bill and asks her to come with him. Shocked at the $20 bill, the woman exclaims, “That’s $20! I thought you said $10 million! What do you think I am, a whore???”

The man replies, “Lady, I think we’ve established just exactly what you are. We are just negotiating your price.”

That prostitution is called the oldest profession makes sense not so much that it is ancient but more because it is a money-making enterprise. As for morality, prostitution was not always outlawed and there remain jurisdictions where it is legal albeit regulated. However, where prostitution is considered a crime, then to profit from it extends the illegality, taints the act of earning from an illegality and likewise makes the pursuit of profit illegal. If A equals B and B equals C, then A equals C. It’s arithmetic.

We use this old joke to introduce us into a discussion on the continuing debate and the increasing discomfort of the general public on Philippine online gambling operators (POGO) who we’ve welcomed unto our shores but who, in some specific instances, have overextended and abused our hospitality. We likewise want to discuss legalities considering that the principal activity as well as the main objective of these operator’s stay is to skirt their statutes and otherwise commit a crime.

In our tolerance of the POGO presence, we are effectively complicit if not conspiratorial in assisting the illegal operations to spread if not profligate a wrong.

The legal question of our acts remains debatable however. Similar to the joke on prostitution, the morality question initially escapes debate where prostitution as a crime remains jurisdictional as with gambling in the case of the POGO. Because online gambling is not illegal in our neck of the woods then the matter of transnational crimes crossing the West Philippine Sea via cyberspace remains a gray area yet undetermined by law.

While gambling is considered criminal and is clearly outlawed in China, online gambling, likewise, criminal and illegal, can be carried out far from the long arm of Chinese laws. Does that make an illegal act legal? Perhaps not. It simply makes the laws unenforceable where the authorities empowered to carry out the law either do not recognize the illegality based on jurisdictional differences or are simply unwilling given the profits deliberate dereliction might earn.

The debate is deepened by other aspects which cannot be addressed legally but must be addressed in any case where the general public is discomforted by the presence of POGO. Allow us to refer back to the joke that we opened with. Specifically, the question of what constitutes a “profession.”

In his final retort the man says that all that remains is to negotiate the price for a night of illicit sex. The woman’s status has been established. It was established when she agreed to engage in illicit sex for $10 million. It’s a commercial quid pro quo, a business transaction. Plainly put, it’s the commercial exchange for sex that establishes what she is.

Now let’s transpose that discussion into the question of our tolerance of POGO and how the gaming authorities justify their presence using the prospective taxes and the lease and rental cash flows POGO bring with them. The money involved is in multiples of billions and certainly that’s money we can use. In the same way that a practitioner of the oldest profession in the planet can use the $10 million offered for sex.

Without discussing the morality of prostitution or even the morality of hosting POGO and earning from what is considered a crime at the point of origin from which Chinese POGO spawn, we have, in effect, indirectly alluded to ourselves as a practitioner of the oldest profession. We are prostitutes.

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