By Raymund Antonio
The Office of the Vice President has joined calls to temporarily halt the operations of Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGOs) in the country amid the “pastillas” controversy involving immigration personnel at airports.
Vice Presidential Spokesperson Barry Gutierrez recommended the temporary suspension of POGOs until the government agencies have set rules for regulating the industry.
“Mula noong simula, ang sinasabi na ni VP Leni, kailangan talaga klaruhin iyong mga patakaran sa POGO,” Gutierrez, who is also Robredo’s legal adviser, said on her weekly radio show.
(From the start, VP Leni has been saying the guidelines on POGOs should be clarified.)
Gutierrez noted the problem of having “no clear laws and regulations” for the government to ensure proper operations of POGOs in the Philippines.
“Baka nga panahon na hindi lang para ayusin iyong regulasyon, pero itigil pansamantala habang ito ay pinag-aaralan at inaayos,” he said on the “BISErbisyong Leni” program aired over dzXL.
(Maybe it’s about time not just to fix the regulations, but temporarily stop it while it’s being studied and fixed.)
The “pastillas” scheme, where Chinese nationals bribe Bureau of Immigration (BI) personnel to easily enter the country to work in the POGO industry, was revealed in a Senate inquiry last week by opposition senator Risa Hontiveros.
BI officer Allison Chong, the whistleblower who testified before the Senate, said immigration personnel on duty at at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 1 had received P20,000 in bribes weekly, while those assigned in Terminal 3 received P8,000 every week.
President Duterte relieved all immigration officials and employees in connection with the modus at the airports. The BI is also conducting its own investigation into the illegal airport service.
Gutierrez said the bribery scheme was proof that POGOs are not beneficial to Filipinos.
“Marami na sa ating mga kababayan at lider ng LGUs (local government units) ang nagrereklamo, at itong buong kuwento ng ‘pastillas’ ay siguro ito na iyong huling patunay na talagang ito ay nagdulot ng isyu sa ating bansa at iyong ating BI na-corrupt pa,” he said
(Many of our countrymen and leaders of LGUs were complaining and this whole story of pastillas could be the final proof that it has really brought a lot of issues to our country and even corrupted our BI.)