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COA can audit POGO earnings, DOJ says

State auditors have the power to audit the earnings of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs), according to the Department of Justice (DOJ).

In a legal opinion dated June 30, the DOJ said there appears to be legal basis and sound fiscal reasons for the Commission on Audit (COA) to audit the gross gaming receipts (GRR) of POGOs, while the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) is still in the process of procuring the services of a qualified third-party audit platform.

The DOJ, however, stressed that this is only for the “information and guidance” of the PAGCOR as it denied the agency’s request for a legal opinion.

“With regret, we respectfully decline your request for guidance and/ or confirmation of your legal position since COA has already adopted a definite position on the matter, which is, that COA can audit the GGR of POGOs,” it said.

Citing a DOJ opinion in 1988, the Justice Department further said it will not pass any opinion or ruling and/or actuation of officials/agencies over which it has no revisory authority.

“It bears stressing that the COA is the watchdog of the financial operations of the government… Being an independent constitutional body, this Department does not possess any reviewing authority over the rulings or official actuations of said agency,” it said.

Justice Officer-in-charge and Undersecretary Raul Vasquez authored the legal opinion.

In March, PAGCOR terminated its contract with Global ComRCI, its former third-party auditor, which was tasked with auditing POGOs for alleged unlawful acts following a review of their deal.

Global ComRCI was awarded a 10-year contract by the PAGCOR as early as 2017, and the agency then said that the service provider went through the proper bidding process and met all the legal requirements under the Procurement Law.

Meanwhile, Senate Ways and Means Committee chairman Sherwin Gatchalian has called on the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to completely ban POGOs—KG, GMA Integrated News