Palace: No basis to suspend POGOs

Published March 5, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Argyll Cyrus Geducos 

There is no basis for the President to ban or even suspend the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) despite the numerous issues surrounding the industry, Malacañang said on Thursday.

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

In his Palace press briefing Thursday, Panelo said Duterte cannot be rushed to ban or suspend POGOs since the issues on illegal immigration, corruption, prostitution, kidnapping, and even killings are still under investigation.

“If he has not received a comprehensive report on these illegal practices, then you cannot hurry him up,” Panelo said.

“You cannot compare… As far as the President is concerned, noong sinuspend niya yun meron siyang basis. Eh dito wala pa nga siyang basis, pinag-aaralan pa nga, eh (when he suspended Lotto and STL, he had the basis to do so. The situation now is different, he’s still studying it),” he added.

Panelo was referring to the suspension of the Lotto and Small Town Lottery (STL) last year, based on corruption issues.

The Senate has been conducting hearings on the issues surrounding POGOs.

Among the issues that surfaced were the alleged reports that Immigration officers were accepting bribes to allow Chinese nationals inside the country, the presence of prostitution dens involving POGOs, money laundering and even possible infiltration by the Chinese military.

READ MORE: Ex-immigration official denies allegations he was aware of ‘pastillas’ scheme

In his Thursday press briefing, Panelo said that while the Palace is concerned about issues relating to the country’s interests and security, he cannot make a categorical statement prior the validation of the said report.

“We have to validate that first we cannot be making statements relative to anything that is based on speculation and unverified reports,” he said.

Meanwhile, Panelo refuted Senator Richard Gordon’s claim that the crimes surrounding POGOs were taking place because the government was too soft on China.

READ MORE: AMLC mum on POGO – Gordon

“I disagree. Then he does not know this President. The President is never soft on anything that relates to the national interest. He is a very decisive President,” he said.

The Palace official added that the Palace is never hurt when China or Chinese nationals are involved in crimes in the country, saying he even asked Gordon to share the information he has on POGOs with the authorities.

“We are not hurt. We are even welcoming what he said and that is precisely we’re requesting if he can share information with the police authorities if they don’t know that yet,” Panelo said.

Panelo, on the other hand, said the system on POGOs should be revisited since the industry is a good source of funds for the government if it is managed properly.

“If there is anything wrong with the system on POGO then we have to review it, evaluate it, and then streamline it, improve it and all the agencies involved must do their job so that any corruption, any unlawful acts can be either neutralized o completely stopped,” he said.

According to Panelo, the government used to collect only P57 million from online gambling before POGOs came in. He said the government has received P17 billion from POGOs for the past three years.

READ MORE: Panelo: Duterte may suspend POGO operations if they violate PH laws