Fifty-eight percent of crimes related to Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) are human trafficking cases, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian said Monday, citing data from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).
“Human trafficking is a heinous crime that exploits the most vulnerable in our communities and the data from the NBI shows that some POGO operators are into human trafficking too. We cannot allow such horrific crimes to happen in our country,” Gatchalian said.
A letter sent by the NBI containing the summary of POGO-related cases showed that POGO-related crimes have reached 113 from November 2019 to March 2023. Of which 65 or 58% of the total number of cases involved human trafficking.
Gatchalian, who led the Senate committee on ways and means inquiry into the socio-economic benefits of POGO in the country, said this is “concerning and alarming” and it can have serious implications in the country’s national security.
In March, the senator called on the Marcos administration to immediately ban POGO operations in the Philippines, saying the risks of allowing its continuous operations outweigh its benefits to the country.
Among the findings that Gatchalian included in his report was the “inherently unstable” business model of POGO due to the outsized foreign regulatory and political risks involved.
The legislator cited the industry’s “troubling social risks” as Philippine National Police data showed that there were at least 102 POGO-related crimes reported between the period of January 1, 2017 and January 23, 2023, victimizing around 316 people. Of which, 214 were Chinese, while 28 were Filipinos.
The POGO industry also appears to be a potent source of financial crime, Gatchalian said, citing reports of the Anti-Money Laundering Council indicating that service providers are highly vulnerable to money laundering.
Based on the data provided by the BIR, the senator said POGO operators are also committing tax evasion.
Around P34.2 billion worth of gross gaming revenues were underreported by POGOs from January to August 2022 alone, resulting in unpaid taxes amounting to P1.7 billion due to under-declaration, he added.
The Senate public order and dangerous drugs panel, led by Senator Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa, also conducted a parallel inquiry into POGO’s effects on public order but has yet to complete the committee report on the investigation.—AOL, GMA Integrated News