By Hannah Torregoza
Senator Risa Hontiveros on Tuesday said the government should not allow Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) to escape accountability even if they plan to leave the country amid their tax liability issues.
Instead of defending them, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp (Pagcor) should exact accountability from these Chinese-run POGO firms and see to it that they will not evade their existing liabilities and obligations under the country’s laws.
Hontiveros made the call amid Pagcor’s report that two POGO firms have left the country and more are planning to exit the Philippines after they are being obliged to pay their tax obligations.
“The sudden closure of these POGOs should not allow them to escape accountability and justice,” Hontiveros said.
“Huwag natin payagan na pagkatapos nila kumita ng bilyon-bilyon dito sa ating bansa sa loob ng ilang taon, ay biglang tatakbuhan na lang ng mga POGO ang utang nilang buwis na tinatayang aabot sa (Let’s not allow these POGOs to escape after earning billions of pesos here in our country for so many years while they owe us taxes that’s worth) P70-billion,” she pointed out.
“POGO firms whose management and workers are involved in kidnapping, human trafficking, prostitution of women and children, unfair labor practice, and other criminal activities should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” she said.
The senator said the few billion pesos they claim POGOs have brought into the Philippine economy are not enough to compensate for their abuse of Filipino women and children, the corruption of the country’s border officials, and the rampant criminality they have brought to the streets.
“Ngayong may (COVID-19) krisis, unahin natin ang kapakanan ng ating kababayan, hindi ang kita ng mga dayuhan (now that we have a COVID-19 crisis, we should prioritize the welfare of our own citizens, not foreigners,” she added.
“Let’s be clear: hindi kailangan ng Pilipinas ang isang industriya na walang ibang hatid kundi krimen, pang –aabuso at pambibiktima ng Pilipino, lalo na laban sa kababaihan at mga menor de edad (The Philippines does not need an industry that brings nothing but crime, abuses, and victimizes Filipinos, especially women and minors),” Hontiveros said.