Senators see need to formalize Senate’s position vs POGOs

Calls for the Senate to formalize its position on the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) snowballed on Wednesday, December 14 after Sen. Grace Poe raised another abduction case involving this sector.

Poe, in a privilege speech, narrated how a trusted friend told her two days ago how his sister-in-law was abducted in a very busy area in Pasay and brought to a POGO dorm in Cavite, where she was sold off to a Chinese-looking buyer.

The victim, the senator said, was initially offered a job as a personal assistant for P100,000 a month. But when she went down her condominium, which is in SMDC Shore 2 Residences near Mall of Asia, to meet up with who. she thought was the employer, she was forced to ride a red Mitsubishi Xpander with conduction sticker YOU537.

Poe said she was lucky that a friend was able to witness the incident.

According to Poe, the victim was harassed and physically harmed by the kidnappers and showed photos of her plight.

“Hinda talaga tapos ang isyung ito (This issue is still a concern),” Poe said.

“Until now, despite the assurance of the PNP (Philippine National Police), Pagcor (Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp.) and Association of POGO operators, POGO-related crimes still exists,” she said.

“This sector has turned one vice which is gambling into a host of other more serious problems like kidnapping, serious physical injuries and human trafficking,” Poe said.

“Allow me to reiterate my call: Let’s face the music and decide once and for all if our institutions are still stronger than POGO and can rein in the risk to peace and order, and possible long-term damage to the rule of law while these POGO-related crimes continue,” she reiterated.

Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva, for his part, urged the Senate as well as all law enforcement agencies to act with haste to stop POGO-related crime incidents, an issue that has been going on since the 18th Congress.

Villanueva lamented the growth of POGO and the rise of criminality, including prostitution and the increased threat of money laundering in the Philippines.

“I hope we act immediately, let's not wait for ourselves or our families to experience this,” Villanueva said after hearing Poe’s privilege speech.

“We maintain our call on our law enforcers to continue to investigate and be on high alert when it comes to POGO-related crimes,” said the senator as he noted that PAGCOR, which has no data on POGO workers and operations, should also do better.

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III also raised the need for the Senate to come up with a position on the matter.

Pimentel said the Senate should formalize its position on POGO amid the spike in criminal incidents, particularly kidnapping.

“I think it is already too much. Even if we do the mathematics it is not worth it... What kind of economic activity is that? That you are organizing people to defraud other people,” Pimentel said.