By Hannah Torregoza
Senator Joel Villanueva said on Sunday that the recent arrest of the 277 Chinese nationals by Immigration officials in Pasig City reinforces the need for the government to strictly regulate Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations (POGO).
Villanueva was referring to the raid undertaken by the Bureau of Immigration (BI) where 277 Chinese workers in an illegal online gaming operations were arrested.
The BI was initially looking for four Chinese fugitives, who were wanted in China for large-scale fraud amounting to RMB100 million, or over P700-million. But it was later found out that the 273 other Chinese nationals with them were also fugitives in their country, and working without permits.
“The arrest of 277 Chinese nationals at a building in Pasig City by immigration agents in one fell swoop reinforces our long-held assertion that criminals have quietly slipped into our shores because of our government’s lack of decisive action to regulate offshore gaming operations or POGOs,” Villanueva said.
“This incident is a clear indication of how PAGCOR, the erstwhile state gambling regulator, continues to fail in its mandate to maintain checks in this sector that, to our mind, has brought more harm than good,” said the senator.
He said the presence of representatives of the Chinese embassy in the raid shows how serious was their government in hunting down fugitives.
“We have heard the Chinese government’s call to stop the operations of POGOs in the country as gambling is illegal in their nation,” said the senator.
“Any supposed benefits from this sector are fruits of a poisoned tree,” he said.
For as long as POGOs are allowed to remain and operate in the Philippines, the country’s law enforcement agencies and labor regulators “will keep on playing the cat-and-mouse game of hunting, arresting, and deporting undesirable aliens away from our country.”
“The problem with this is that money used to finance these operations can be put to better use if only the government deals with the problem with the same passion and intensity as its campaign against illegal drugs and corruption,” he said.
Villanueva, chair of the Senate committee on labor and employment said, he will press on with the public inquiry into the POGO sector in order to determine the breadth of its scale, as well as to establish once and for all its supposed benefits and ill effects into Philippine society.
“As it stands, the setup of POGOs is fertile ground for illicit activities such as money laundering, and its continuing presence here entices fugitives from China to secure safe haven here in our country,” Villanueva noted.