Solons slam Pagcor for failure to run after illegal online gaming operators; complete ban sought

Published November 11, 2019, 10:03 PM

by Ellalyn De Vera & Richa Noriega

By Charissa Luci-Atienza

Lawmakers criticized Monday the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) for its failure to run after the more than 100 illegal online gaming operators.

The Joint Session of the Senate and the House of Representatives on the extension of Martial Law in Mindanao commences in the Plenary of the Batasang Pambansa on December 13, 2017. (ALVIN KASIBAN / MANILA BULLETIN)

At Monday House Committee on Ways and Means’ initial deliberation on a bill seeking to impose a five-percent tax on all offshore gaming companies,

House Minority Bienvenido Abante Jr. and Lanao del Norte Rep. Abdullah Dimaporo chided Pagcor officials for not doing its job and its failure to address the proliferation of illegal online gaming operations.

“I just feel that Pagcor does not want to touch POGO. Because if you touch the POGO, you don’t have a good number of POGO outlets here,” Abante said.

“I feel that Pagcor has its own government. I would suggest that we scrap the whole POGO all together if we are not going to really tax it, let us scrap it all together. The government does not need any kind of a gaming that cannot be touched,” he said.

He said the Philippines should follow suit to Cambodia in scrapping the offshore gaming operations after Atty. Jessa Mariz Fernandez of Pagcor disclosed to the House panel there are “100 plus” illegal online gaming operators.

He noted that the number of illegal online gaming operations is bigger than the number of licensees at about 60.

“This is uncontrolled. So, therefore, how can Pagcor actually control and regulate the more than 100 illegal online gaming operators?,” Abante asked.

“If we cannot tax it properly, we might scrap the whole thing because it is not helping the government raise the necessary revenues,” he pointed out.

Responding to Abante’s call, Fernandez said the Congress should consider granting Pagcor enforcement powers.

“Can you please give us enforcement powers,” she told the panel, chaired by Albay Rep. Joey Salceda.

The Pagcor official said there are online gaming operators who are operating without getting a license from Pagcor.

She said Pagcor has a mutual cooperation agreement with the Philippine National Police (PNP), National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Bureau of Immigration (BI) and Office of the President to address the proliferation of illegal online gaming operations.

“We don’t have [an] enforcement arm. They are the ones investigating and they are verifying whether or not those who are operating have license from Pagcor before making the arrest, ” Fernandez said.

She said Pagcor supports House Bill 5267, principally authored by Salceda.

HB 5267 seeks to impose a five-percent tax on all offshore gaming companies on gross receipts derived from gaming operations.

It provides that an alien individual who is a permanent resident of a foreign country and who is employed in the Philippines by an offshore gaming licensee shall pay a tax of 15 percent of the salaries, wages, annuities, compensation, remuneration, and other emoluments, such as honoraria and allowances received from such licensee.

“A clear, definitive tax regime for POGOs will be a potent revenue sources, as well as a means of placing these facilities under stricter oversight. Failure to faithfully report revenues and expenses will now unequivocally constitute tax evasion, ” Salceda said.