Panelo: Gov’t open to reviewing POGO policies if ‘pastillas’ bribe scheme is true

By Genalyn Kabiling

The government is open to the possible review of its policy on Philippine offshore gaming operations (POGOs) if the alleged “pastillas” bribery scheme in airports is proven true, Malacañang said Tuesday.

Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo (OPS / MANILA BULLETIN) Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo (OPS / MANILA BULLETIN)

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the Palace "frowns" on any violation of the law and will act on any complaint filed before its office.

"If those will be proven, then there is something wrong with the operation of the POGO, then the government has to do something about it,” Panelo said in a Palace press briefing.

Asked if the government will rethink its POGO policy and entry of Chinese workers, Panelo said: "Anything that is bad for this government, the government is always open.”

He maintained that the POGO industry is not indispensable. He said the government “never turns a blind eye" to any irregularity.

“Sabi nga ni Presidente (As the President said), ‘there is no sacred cow in this government. If it’s against the interest of the people and general welfare, I’ll stop it.’ This is the kind of President we have,” he added.

Some immigration personnel are allegedly involved in the "pastillas" or pay-off scheme to escort Chinese nationals who want to work in POGOs. The scheme, where bribes of P10,000 are wrapped in bond paper, thus making the cash bundles resemble the Filipino delicacy, was revealed in a Senate inquiry initiated by Sen. Risa Hontiveros.

Panelo said the government is expected to conduct a probe into the matter once a complaint is filed. "Precisely, you have to file a complaint with us so that we will know, so that we can act on it."

"The Immigration Commissioner is tasked to do his job. Meaning, apart from the usual governing his own territory, he has to know whether there are anomalies in his territory, and respond to it. It doesn’t have to take the President to do the job for him," he added.

READ MORE: BI chief vows to investigate ‘escort’ racket at airports