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POGOs don’t enjoy ‘blanket protection’ from gov’t —Panelo

Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGOs) do not enjoy “blanket protection” from the Duterte government, Malacañang said Wednesday, amid complaints about illegal activities of Chinese nationals supposedly connected to the budding industry.

President Rodrigo Duterte’s spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the government, which has forged closer relations with China, does not tolerate irregularities involving POGOs or Chinese citizens in the country such as tax evasion, bribery and prostitution.

“We’re prosecuting all those committing illegal acts, whether Chinese, American, foreigners. Walang sinasanto si Presidente,” Panelo told reporters.

“Nobody is enjoying any blanket protection from this government. No sacred cows. Regardless of who they are, even if they are Filipinos.”

Over the past few weeks, the Senate has investigated a bribery scheme involving Chinese nationals in airport terminals and prostitution dens catering to POGO workers.

The legislative body is also set to begin on Thursday its investigation on the huge amounts of cash brought into the country by Chinese nationals amid speculation these could be used for criminal activities.

Duterte has already directed a parallel probe into the alleged entry of dirty money into the Philippines.

On Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon urged his colleagues to consider expressing the sentiment of the Senate that the operations of POGOs should be stopped.

“What is happening in our country is apparently rooted in the very presence of POGOs run by the Chinese. If there were no POGOs, all of these nefarious activities would have no purpose,” Drilon said.

Sought for comment, Panelo said he was not sure whether Duterte will support Drilon’s proposal even as he stressed that the President is against “corrupt practices and illegal acts.”

“If the legislature makes it unlawful, then ibang usapan na 'yun. We will have to wait for the President whether he agrees with it or not,” the Palace official said.

“The fact that it has been there, I suppose there is a good thing in it but of course, there are also, as we have received reports [that] there have been many instances of using it for illegal practices.”

Drilon said POGOs failed to bring “any substantial benefit” to the country. — BM, GMA News

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